Women’s Conference: Using technology appropriately

Peggy Berrett and John B. Eyring discussed how technology usage has negative social effects on society during Women’s Conference on May 4, 2018.

Reminiscing on the past, Berrett marveled at the leaps made in technology since the days where the telephone cord limited her ability to multitask. Now, her phone serves as a phone, timer, calendar, computer, step-tracker, iPod, GPS and more.

However, she raised the question as to whether people use technology as a distraction or as a means to do good.

Berrett gave examples like neglecting the Gospel Library app placed adjacent to Instagram, or neglecting the needs of others because the focus is turned inward into technology and not outward to others.

This past October in General Conference, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson said, “As amazing as modern technology can be for spreading the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and helping us stay connected to family and friends, if we are not vigilant in how we use our personal devices, we too can begin to turn inward and forget that the essence of living the gospel is service.”

Berrett compared this decline in social interaction to “Alexa,” a smart device designed by Amazon. When unpaired, the device states aloud, “I’m sorry, I have lost my connection.”

“We can buy clothes and groceries online and stream music online. Everything can be delivered to our homes in a little brown box,” Berrett said. “Yes, it all saves time, but what do we lose? We lose that personal connection.”

Berrett said studies show that people who have good friends and meaningful connections live longer, are happier and are more successful.

With the hopes of accomplishing those three goals, Berrett posed a question to help internalize the connection between our own personal technology usage and ability to communicate heart-to-heart.

“I suggest we ask ourselves, ‘do the media sources we use enlarge or restrict our ability to uplift and serve others?’” Berrett said.

One idea to administer others’ emotional needs includes putting the devices to good use by communicating face-to-face through video calling or, even better, setting aside time to communicate one-on-one, according to Berrett.

John B. Eyring, son of President Henry. B Eyring, opened his talk by stressing the importance of maintaining one’s spiritual welfare through scripture study, prayer, church attendance and Family Home Evening — which connect people to heavenly guidance.

However, he recognized the lack of meaningful interpersonal connection in today’s society and shared the same feelings as Elder David A. Bednar.

“Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, 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,” Elder Bednar said.

The sobering reality is an increased consumption of digital media causes a separation from other meaningful pursuits, according to Eyring. If one feels inclined constantly to connect with the digital world, little time is left for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

“If we can’t let go of our bright, shining objects, we’re disconnecting ourselves from friends and family. We’re distracting ourselves from the Holy Ghost and (Satan) can redirect us down strange roads that we never intended to travel,” Eyring said.

Demonstrating this idea, he compared giving a young adult a smartphone equivalent to giving them an airplane. Airplanes are difficult to operate and take years to fully understand and maneuver. One must be properly trained in order to operate one.

Eyring said he believes using media without any boundaries is just as harmful as flying a plane without experience.

With tears streaming down his face, he urged listeners to teach the rising generation how to use technology for good. He stressed the importance of teaching in the Savior’s way, referencing the recent Sunday school manual.

Eyring offered four points to apply, whether teaching doctrine or how to be safely connected to the media world while avoiding temptation.

  1. Love those you teach
  2. Teach by the Spirit
  3. Teach the doctrine
  4. Invite diligent learning

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