Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Spiritual Dangers (and Blessings) of Blogging

Moments after Latter-day Saints got the message that blogging could help share the Gospel, we began to hear refreshed warnings about the dangers of the Internet, and not just for all the filth that it enables, but for the great time sink that it offers and for the distraction it can be from all the good we can be doing. This is a serious issue. I blog, have Web pages, and even Twitter a little. They are all distractions from many things I should probably be doing instead. Blogging takes way too much time, as does everything else interesting on the Web. I'd be more productive if I dropped it all completely. All that keeps me dedicated to squeezing out an occasional post or Tweet or Web update is a selfless desire to help the world and unbridled narcissism, or something in between.

In "Good, Better, Best," Elder Oaks wisely reminds us of the trade-offs inherent to every choice with our finite time in mortality:
Consider how we use our time in the choices we make in viewing television, playing video games, surfing the Internet, or reading books or magazines. Of course it is good to view wholesome entertainment or to obtain interesting information. But not everything of that sort is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. Some things are better, and others are best.
I wonder where Twitter falls on the good to best continuum? Perhaps micro-blogging is totally off the chart, next to macro-blogging.

In May, Elder Bednar cautioned against being absorbed in social Web sites and specifically mentioned Twitter, to the chagrin of some of us who had fallen prey to its lure. A video of his May talk was shown on the last Sunday in August in the combined Relief Society and Priesthood meeting I attended, along with some direct and occasionally painful warnings from the bishop of the ward. One of the great advantages to being on the High Council and visiting other wards is that when a bishop gives council that hurts, I can process it as counsel to his ward and not to me. Sweet. And I wasn't there in my home ward to hear our bishop say much the same thing to my ward (according to my son, who was there and listened). So I'm excused, thank you.

Fortunately, the pain of Elder Bednar's tough counsel for those of us who blog and micro-blog was mitigated at roughly the same time by welcome spiritual guidance from an Apostle, Elder Dieter Uchtdorf, in his General Conference address in the Spring of 2009, printed in the May 2009 Ensign, entitled "We Are Doing a Great Work and Cannot Come Down":
Sometimes the things that distract us are not bad in and of themselves; often they even make us feel good.

It is possible to take even good things to excess. One example can be seen in a father or grandfather who spends hours upon hours searching for his ancestors or creating a blog while neglecting or avoiding quality or meaningful time with his own children and grandchildren.
Sweet! There's an Apostle, in General Conference, discussing blogging not as something inherently questionable, but as something that can be good. How good? AS GOOD AS SEARCHING FOR OUR ANCESTORS. Family history work, one of the most important spiritual activities in the Church with eternal significance, something worthy of vast sacrifices on the part of faithful members, has been placed on the same plane as blogging. While we must be careful not to do either too much, we LDS bloggers can find solace in knowing that our work is far more spiritually significant that we ever dreamed. Except perhaps when we're blogging about Britney.

Seriously, though, I agree with all the warnings regarding misused time and Internet excesses. The resources of the Internet, like anything else that is fun, can be addicting or a source of harmful excess. We must always practice self-control and wisdom and not twitter away or blog away our lives. When we do pursue social networking, what is our goal? What is our goal for all the things we do in life? Are we seeking to build up the kingdom of God, fulfill our duties, and bless the lives of others? Are we seeking to be honest, diligent employees doing our best and earning our pay fairly? Are we looking for ways to magnify our callings and do more good? Then maybe that blog, those tweets, or that Warcraft mission will achieve something meaningful.

At the same time, it is natural that new technologies will create social tension and distrust as non-users or late adopters question the changing lifestyles of early fans or fanatics. Some developments that are promising and useful may be viewed as foolish by outsiders. If some of our local and other leaders occasionally seem a little too concerned about the opportunities of rising technologies, let's be patient with them, while also being humble enough to actually listen to the counsel and honestly consider whether we have a problem that might need correction.

9 comments:

jayleenb said...

For what it's worth Jeff, your blog isn't something that only reaches a couple of people. Your blog and website reach many thousands of souls who need to see the other side to the attacks so constantly hurled in our direction. I frequently send people here for answers to anti accusations. And your blog has been a GOD-send to me.

Of course, only you can hear the Spirit's direction to you, but I think you have an idea of the eternal value of what you do. It's no small matter. You have provided me with encouragement, armed me with facts and logic on how to defend my faith. Just recently on another site I was able to incorporate info from my own studies as well as your site to completely disarm a Tannerite.

Anyway, I know you'll make the appropriate decision after studying it out and seeking confirmation. Consider my input as part of the studying it out thing. :o)

Be blessed and as my Sister Missionary who taught me would say, "Have a GLOR-ious day!"

Misanthropic Mormon said...

"It is natural that new technologies will create social tension and distrust as non-users or late adopters question the changing lifestyles of early fans or fanatics."

Well said!

Papa D said...

Jeff, my own blogging time has dropped dramatically the last few months as my job changed, I moved my family and my wife and I started teaching seminary in our home. I've gone from almost omnipresent in the Bloggernacle (*grin*) to a very occasional commenter here and there.

I really appreciate the distinctions you make in this post, since I feel that my former focus was "right" for me at that time and my current limited time is "right" for me now. The issue, imo, is when a true addiction develops and even changed circumstances can't affect the amount of time one spends on-line.

Line of Authority said...

Spending time in the television and internet should not stand in the way with what we should do. We could allot time for blogging, Tweeting and social networking but should not exceed that which is planned. We should stick to. Easy said than done indeed! haha..

Well Jeff we just always need to remember that there are some other things that requires our time aside from blogging.

Bookslinger said...

Here's a cool cartoon of why people get addicted to the Internet, and to arguing or apologetics in particular.

http://xkcd.com/386/

Michaela Stephens said...

I think the main things that are communicated by the quotes that you included in your post are the following:

Some people are pursuing online activities in order to AVOID face time with their families.

and

"good,better,best", which translates into "we need to make sure that the things that we involve ourselves in and post out there in the internet ether are actually "value-added" so that we don't waste each others' precious time".

I bet that there might be fewer posts if we didn't post until we had something extra enlightening, enlarging, and stimulating to share.

Alex Valencic said...

I've frequently struggled with what I have seen as somewhat conflicting counsel from LDS leaders about the appropriate use of the Internet and other new technologies. However, I think that this particular post helps us see where the truth lies.

We need to avoid taking anything to an extreme, when we find ourselves neglecting the important things in life because we are addicted to something that, in moderation, is fine.

Thanks, Jeff, for putting it all in perspective!

JP said...

Nice Post!

I believe, and have received harsh criticism from family and friends, that this younger generation is losing their ability to communicate because of texting. How valuable will someone be in 20 years who can actually hold a “person-to-person” conversation?

For what it’s worth, I don’t think texting is a form of communication. Sure, you are transferring information from one spot to another. It is great to (finally) have what my critics see as a reliable person speak out against it!

“Good, better, best.”

Texting is quick, easy and great for bulk but there are some things which can’t compete with a good ‘ol fashioned phone call or “person-to-person” conversation.

Super-Humble Saturday said...

Jeff, as you suspect, your blog is the outgrowth of unbridled narcissism. Yes, your blog is almost a complete waste of time, but not in the self-abusive, guilt-laden manner you suspect. The saving grace of your blog is that it highlights the lengths to which we Mormons will go to feel some sense of control over our lives.