Using Social Media to Come to Christ: José A. Teixeira at #LDSConf

Social media is one of the most transformative, most disruptive, and potentially destructive technologies facing us as modern humans (as are other technologies, like television, the internet, artificial intelligence, nuclear power, and Dippin Dots).

In his Sunday morning conference talk, José A. Teixeira of the First Quorum of the Seventy discussed the potential of social media to bring people to Christ (good), or to shut out the real world around us (bad).

Before we get to the good, let me testify of the bad. Social media has the power to include, but it is just as often a tool of exclusion, whether wittingly or unwittingly. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real–it’s that isolated feeling you get on Instagram, or Twitter , or Facebook, as you see people sharing photos of parties and playdates you weren’t invited to, or of concerts you didn’t attend, or vacations you couldn’t afford. It damages friendships, sparks jealousy, and can reinforce social cliques within our wards and stakes.

Social media also has the power to pull us out of the real world and direct our focus to the virtual; virtual conversations, virtual friendships, virtual families instead of the IRL equivalents.

So much of that seems to be about using our online/offline time wisely. “The choices and priorities we make with our time online are decisive,” according to Elder Teixeira. Where the virtual worlds hurt us is when they take time time away from from our families, our loved ones, and our church responsibilities. As Elder Teixeira said:

“In this digital era, we can so rapidly transport ourselves to places and activities that can quickly remove ourselves from what is essential for a life filled with lasting joy. This networked life can if left unchecked give precedence to relationships with people that we don’t know or have never met, rather than with the people we live with, our own family!”

Lots of potential for harm, which I’ve barely grazed. But of course, as with those other disruptive technologies (TV, internet, AI, nuclear power, and Dippin Dots) the potential benefits of social media are vast. For instance, I think the bloggernacle fills a void in a lot of peoples’ lives. There are few relationships I value more than my relationships within the virtual community of BCC bloggers, and in my job I’ve seen positive relationships and communities get built and enact change via social media. And social media gives us a platform for sharing our testimonies and being an example “at scale.” (Sorry.)

Elder Teixeira focused his remarks on three habits for healthy, faith-promoting social media use:

  1. Visit the Church’s official website for resources
  2. Subscribe to the Church’s social networks
  3. Make time to set aside your mobile devices

His talk kept the focus on the individual–we should visit the website and subscribe to the Church’s feeds for our good–rather than making those activities part of a global missionary effort. I appreciate that. I suspect the most best social media missionary work comes from people living their lives and letting their example shine, rather than branded hashtags. So often, the material we’re asked to share feels more like ammunition than inspiration. We could learn from the Pope’s Twitter feed in that regard; and I suspect our follower counts and reach would increase if we did.

It’s that third point that is so, so important in modern life: “Make time to set aside your mobile devices.” For me, weekends are a time to partially unplug. My ideal for a successful weekend is one in which I don’t open my laptop or respond to work email. My social media activity drops as well. I fully agree with the following from Elder Teixeira:

“It is refreshing to put aside our electronic devices for a while and instead turn the pages of the scriptures or take the time to converse with family and friends. Especially on the Lord’s day, experience the peace of participating in a sacrament meeting without the constant urge to see if you have a new message or a new post.”

“The habit of setting aside our mobile device for a time will enrich and broaden our view of life, for life is not confined to a 4-inch screen.”

There’s a lot we can do and see on those 4-inch screens, good and bad. One thing you could do is dive into BCC’s conference coverage, follow our social media feeds, and maybe follow Elder Teixeira on Twitter. He’s got 89 followers now, and I bet we can get him to 100!

Comments

  1. Jason K. says:

    Giving up Facebook for Lent was a real blessing to me. I have reasons for staying on–mostly having to do with keeping my online and offline lives connected–but I’m already planning to repeat the Lent thing.

  2. I followed Elder Teixeira.

  3. The PangWitch says:

    this post offends me – attacking dipping dots is never appropriate.

  4. Spencer says:

    YooHoo. I’m follower 100! What prize do I win?

  5. Ryan Mullen says:

    I have a question for anyone following church leaders on Twitter. Do their tweets contain any individuality or spontaneity? When the apostles first opened Twitter accounts, I couldn’t see a point to following one over another. Why not just have a quorum account?

  6. We just have :) http://1drv.ms/1Inodbg
    I don’t know who was #100, but I was #101.

  7. I now see that Spencer was #100 ^^

  8. Ryan, there is occasional mention of individual travels, etc., but yeah.