Please Don’t Misunderstand President Nelson’s Social Media Fast

A while back, President Nelson asked the youth to perform a 7 day “social media fast.” Then he asked the relief society to do the same. And then in other settings, we’ve all be asked to take a break from social media.

One of the things I love most about the members of the church is how obedient and quick to observe the requests of the prophets they are.

But one of the things I dislike most about some members of the church is how extreme they often take those directives. Layering on their own interpretations and programs in order to show how zealously they’ll follow the prophet. Often, it’s those layers of interpretation and zeal that cause counter-productivity in regard to the initial request.

What we don’t need right now are a bunch of good people in the church abandoning the battlefront. The internet and social media is the mission field right now. It effects every aspect of how effectively the local missionaries are able to do their job.

As far as I am aware, President Nelson hasn’t told anyone to get off social media permanently. What he’s saying is that we need to reframe our usage of the tool and not allow ourselves to become addicted to it. That what a fast generally does. It shows your mind and body that you are in control of the thing you might be craving. Fasting puts everything back in perspective.

If you’re trying to get off of social media for personal reasons or time constraints then I totally get it. Everyone has got to make decisions that are best for them and their families. But if you’re not using social media because you think the prophet doesn’t want you to use social media or be on the internet, then you might be doing so at the peril of all those people who need your unique perspective and voice.

The prophet himself is very much on social media:

You can argue that the prophet has someone else writing and posting for him, but you can be certain that these posts are not going out without his directive and stamp of approval.

He posts every few days and they are always messages of goodness. That is the example he’s trying to set for how to use social media.

He’s saying, in effect, don’t waste hours of your day just simply being a consumer of social media, engaging in debate, creating contention, and viewing negative content.

Instead, get on social media in moderation, support your friends, give words of encouragement, and be like a drop of bleach added to a glass of dirty water. To put it in the words of Elder Bednar, to “sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth—messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy.”

If the prophet and the most senior apostles are using it for good, then shouldn’t we do likewise?

Side note: If you think President Oaks is out of touch with technology, then how has he figured out that Instagram’s algorithm favors videos? 😇

But people are still fasting from social media. Many more than seven days later. Some permanently.

But not Elder Holland:

We need seasoned and mature adults who know how to control themselves online and then to get online and help metabolize the filth and darkness that is present in the world.

Of course, too much screen time can be bad. Staring at your phone while you’re at dinner with your family or on a camping trip is probably bad. But the proper use of technology and social media can make you and others infinitely better people.

I’ve heard people trash social media and smartphones, and then sit in their recliners and watch 8 hours a day of their favorite Netflix series or endless re-runs of Sportscenter. These are the same people who have 4 TVs in their house and are DVRing all the garbage sitcoms and reality TV shows.

Screens are not bad. How people use them is another question.

From everything I can gather, that’s what President Nelson is trying to say. To take a step back and look at how you’re utilizing technology in your life. If it’s not constructive, then reconstruct your approach and utilize it for good in moderation.

A recently returned missionary gave her homecoming talk in sacrament meeting this past week. The story that stood out to me the most was about a man in Mexico who went online to download some music. Before he knew it, he was watching a video about the first vision. He asked for the missionaries to come teach him. The next thing they knew, he had come unto Christ, made lifestyle adjustments, and was baptized. All of it started with just a single online interaction.

I’ve seen this happen time and time again through online interactions. People have come unto Christ, been baptized, reactivated, ministered to, and educated. The tool is not inherently bad. It’s the approach of the user who uses the tool.

About a year ago, I sat with a high ranking member of the missionary department. He showed me pictures of Elders Anderson and Bednar with President Oaks at the Google and Facebook HQ’s. What were they doing? They were figuring out how to use the internet and social media to more effectively reach all of God’s children.

We need more voices for good on the internet. We need them desperately.

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