“Seeing Things As They Really Are”
Several months ago I felt like the internet was starting to consume my life and my mind. I was constantly writing blog posts in my head, I had to check my email and blog at least 5 times a day, and couldn’t wait for everything in my life to get out to the way so I could delve into “blogger land.” It was getting bad enough that when Elder Bednar gave his fantastic talk entitled “Things As They Really Are” in which he warns about letting virtual things get in the way of the most important things in your life, my husband made me watch it and then read it… twice. I took the hint. I realized that while my internet obsession could not be classified as an “addiction” it was definitely taking me away from what was most important in my life and what was real.
One of the things that stood out the most to me in Elder Bednar’s talk was this:
Satan also strives to entice the sons and daughters of God to minimize the importance of their physical bodies. This particular type of attack is most subtle and diabolical…one of his most potent tactics is to beguile you and me as embodied spirits to disconnect gradually and physically from things as they really are. In essence, he encourages us to think and act as if we were in our premortal, unembodied state. And, if we let him, he can cunningly employ some aspects of modern technology to accomplish his purposes. Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, ear buds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication.
… I am not suggesting all technology is inherently bad; it is not. Nor am I saying we should not use its many capabilities in appropriate ways to learn, to communicate, to lift and brighten lives, and to build and strengthen the Church; of course we should. But I am raising a warning voice that we should not squander and damage authentic relationships by obsessing over contrived ones. “Nearly 40% of men and 53% of women who play online games said their virtual friends were equal to or better than their real-life friends, according to a survey of 30,000 gamers conducted by … a recent Ph.D. graduate from Stanford University. More than a quarter of gamers [who responded indicated that] the emotional highlight of the past week occurred in a computer world.”
It was that last statistic that really got to me. I realized that for the last several months my “emotional highlight” of the week had occurred on-line. I realized that I knew more about the lives of my blogging friends than I did the woman next door, the women I visit taught, or even my younger sister. My contributions to conversations at the dinner table almost always involved something I had read or seen online or something from someone’s life I read on a blog. I also realized that I was also starting to compare my life and my children to other women’s lives and children that I didn’t even know and whose pictures and lives had been Photo Shopped and edited. I was judging myself and my family by an illusionary standard and sometimes it just made me miserable. True, I was doing a lot of good for the women I associated with online but I was also neglecting the people around me who also needed me. By allowing myself to get sucked into the internet I was, like Elder Bednar warned, disconnecting from my physical body and the physical world and gradually losing sight of things as they really were.
One night when I was explaining my dilemma to my husband he suggested that we just cancel our internet for awhile– to give me some time to “come back to reality” so to speak. So we did. There were still things I needed to do online and so we set aside a few nights a week when I could go to the library and use the internet to write for my blog or other projects that I’d felt God had directed me to. It was amazing to me how once the internet was gone I felt like a fog had been lifted from my eyes and I saw things in a clearer light. During that break I also realized that blogging was deeply satisfying for me and that I loved to write, I loved the friendships I had made and strengthened through blogging, and I loved having a creative outlet in which to express my ideas and thoughts. I also felt like God had given me an assignment and stewardship online through my Women in the Scripture Blog that he wanted me to continue. It was clear to me that if I was going to keep blogging it needed to be something that would enhance and enrich my life but not to consume it. These questions from Elder Bednar’s talk have helped me evaluate how I spend my time on the internet and give myself boundaries. He said:
I offer two questions for consideration in your personal pondering and prayerful studying:
1. Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
2. Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?
You will receive answers, inspiration, and instruction from the Holy Ghost suited to your individual circumstances and needs. I repeat and affirm the teaching of the Prophet Joseph: “All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him.”
I love that last quote by Joseph Smith– that we are beings with bodies who have the power to act and to choose and have power over those who do not. Satan, the devil, doesn’t have a body and he will never have one. He wants to do all he can to make us miserable like him. In today’s world of rapidly changing technology Satan is finding many ways to disconnect us from our physical bodies and act like the disembodied spirit he is. He may entice us to disconnect from our bodies and the world around us through the internet, video games, texting, music, drugs, medicines, movies, book, magazines, television, extreme sports, and in a thousand other ways. I am grateful for the clear counsel to be especially on guard for any sort of procedure, product, image, or service that disconnects us from our physical bodies, our physical feelings, and our physical world. We need to increasingly rely upon the spirit to know what is real and what is not.
For me learning to overcome my internet obsession and learning how to discern what is real from what is no real has been a powerful experience for me. I understand more fully what Nephi means when he explains that all men and women “… are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon…” (2 Nephi 2:26) I am a being of power and it is my body that gives me the power to act, to choose and not to be acted upon. How I use that power, how I value and use my body, will determines who I am and where I will go. My body is precious and I can’t afford to loose sight of the real world to live in satan’s illusionary world– there is too much the Lord needs me to do.
Heather is the wife of one wonderful man, the mother of two beautiful children and has 12 chickens. When she isn’t snuggling a baby or chasing chickens you can find her working on a book about the gift of pregnancy and giving birth or writing on her her blog Women in the Scriptures.