My friends and family make fun at me because I am a man that operates on themes. I will often get on a certain genre of thoughts and actions and I’m not shy about letting everyone know what I am doing.
For the past couple months I decided I was going “counter-culture” and rebelling against all things superficial that were squeezing the substance out of my life. It all started with the movie “Into the wild” (2007) written and directed by Sean Penn. In the movie a rich young college kid with a broken past and identity crisis decides to travel cross-country alone. He burns his man-made money and decides nature will be his only companion. He ends up rafting the Colorado river, staying for weeks in a cave in Mexico and then finally making his way up to Alaska. Based on a true story, he ends up eating poisonous berries and dying alone in the Alaskan wilderness. I decided that I wasn’t going to be as extreme, but in my own way I was inspired by the movie and I wanted to step away from the world and “into the wild” to make some changes.
My first course of action was to disconnect from the social media intake. Once very active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, snap chat blogging, and even filth like Tinder for a short moment I decided to take a step away from the internet world. I deleted everything and had a friend change my I tunes password on my I phone so I couldn’t add back any of the apps on my phone. I had the same friend do the same with my Facebook account and then I scheduled it for permanent deletion. After 15 days of not logging on it was all gone. At first I went through bad withdrawals but after a while I settled into a real peace.
For me it was a personal statement mostly out of disgust for the way I had let those outlets throw me off-balance. The first two years of dental school are fairly mundane with many hours exhausted in the library and in lecture halls. To distract myself from the seriousness of my endeavors I would look for any external outlet . It would ease the mental suffering of what I was going through for a small moment, and for me that was worth it. What happened was that I became easily distracted by social media and my priorities were a little off.
My days as the (almost) Mormon Bachelor appearing on national news and dating a You Tube celebrity did not help my distracting habits. Followers, predators, stalkers, and small Mormon world celebrity status soon consumed me in an awful type of social prison. I will be honest and say that it’s not easy for me to say no to those clamoring for my attention or to exercise serious self-control when needed in the eye of such a massive internet storm. I couldn’t handle it. I was not even close to being famous during this time but I got a small taste of what it would be like and the sample was enough to make me crazy. I can’t even go back and erase everything online that shows up when you google my name but I wish I could.
By leaving it all behind and freeing myself from the many distractions I suddenly discovered I had a lot more time to myself to do the things that make me happy and bring real joy and satisfaction to my life. I started to work out, read and meditate more, study harder and apply myself in school. I instantly became ten times more productive in my daily activities. I realized that I could live without the constant attention source and that I could fill my days with substance. It’s not that all the social media is really that bad at all its just a matter of good better and best and Satan would love to distract us from doing the things that matter most. He plays on each of our tendencies to be a little attention whore and he can bring out the worst in us if we let him.
Let me illustrate some of this for you with some questions. I used to answer YES to nearly every one of these but now I can say that I am free and it has changed my life.
Is your nightly prayer and scripture routine interrupted by social media or text messages?
Are you really present at FHE, Institute and sacrament meeting or are you glued into your I phone? Are you “too busy” to home teach or do other things you know the Savior would have you do?
Are you developing real and lasting friendships with those around you through edifying and deep conversations? Do you really have any idea who your 1500 “friends” online really are? Have you ever fallen for a “catfish” type of girl who was giving you all the attention you want but it wasn’t real?
Are you developing quality relationships with the girls you are dating or is your relationship based on Facebook messenger, text messages and pictures? Are you focusing on really getting to know the girl you are interested in or are you too busy hanging onto superficial connections texting multiple women at the same time?
Are you using the internet and social media to feed unhealthy addictions such as pornography or sexting or other foul whoredoms?
Are you endangering your life and those around you by texting and driving? A friend of mine told me a story recently how she was texting and driving and ended up in a life flight helicopter to an ICU and barely survived. She had post traumatic stress disorder and it took her a long time to normalize her life afterwards. She sadly admitted that to this day she will still text and drive. Are we that consumed that even a wake up call like my friend had won’t motivate us to change our ways?
Lets call it what it is and that is an ADDICTION. Is it really our phones we are addicted to? Or is it the brief escape from the real world pressing down on us? Or is it our personal insecurity that is constantly yearning for attention from the OUTSIDE.
My Dad gave me great advice once he said, “Wherever you are…BE THERE.” It is rude to be glued into your phone and not to be giving those your with your full self undivided. As a generation raised with the daunting task of harnessing these new technologies its imperative that we don’t let it all consume us.
I served a mission in Guayaquil Ecuador from 2004-2006. I was on a return flight back to my hometown in Sacramento, California when I had an overwhelming spiritual manifestation. Once accompanied by multiple missionaries I was alone on the final leg of my journey back home. I was sitting there reading my scriptures like any returning missionary would and getting ready for the flight to take off when I heard the flight attendant tell the cabin to turn off any electronic devices. I didn’t have anything to turn off of course, I went to a mission with no cell phones and the only technology I saw for two years was the weekly internet cafe to email my family back home. I took notice around me and to my astonishment every other person I could see on the plane was plugged into something. Phones, lap tops, i pods, etc all became much more prominent in the two years I was on my mission. I paid special attention to a Father glued to his lap top while his son tugged on his arm, “Daddy Daddy look at the picture I drew of you and Mommy,” the child shouted incessantly. My heart broke as the child was repeatedly ignored. In that moment it dawned on me that our world and society as a whole had been taken over by technology. I was blown away.
As the ambitious ego centered self promoter strives to “get ahead” in today’s world in my opinion he or she is committing spiritual suicide. Once upon a time only big time artists and athletes seemed to hold a corner in the fame department but now with the internet, YouTube and social media anyone with some crafty skill can elevate themselves to pseudo-celebrity status. The followers, friends and likes add up over time. Do you really know what you’re getting yourself into? There is a reason that most celebrities can’t keep a normal relationship and they end up addicted to drugs and imploding. Is the road your on feeding your ego driven self or your spiritually sacred self?
Unless you are extremely sure of who you are and what you stand for, you will get eaten alive in today’s world. If the source of your self-esteem comes EXTERNALLY…from the outside world…you are in great danger. What happens to the ego-driven self is that you become obsessed with seeking validation from those around you. You need multiple people to constantly tell you how good-looking or great you are in order to feel good about yourself. This can never lead to happiness, the ego will never be satisfied. It will dull the natural senses and make us literally walking zombies in the fact that we are spiritually dead. World War Z is a new movie with Brad Pitt. I couldn’t help but think of it in a spiritual sense that we are destroying ourselves by becoming walking zombies, always plugged into an unhealthy distraction. The real war is with the “zombie”within each one of us and to not cave to how Satan would have use abuse these technologies.
Back to my personal counter-culture kick…After awhile free from social media I was sitting in stake conference and got a prompting that it would benefit me to get rid of my I phone 5. I told some of my friends I was going to downgrade to a flip phone so that I could have real conversations again with my friends and they all thought I was crazy. Did I really NEED my I phone? I was paying well over 100 dollars a month and is that too much? I am sad to say that I decided I wasn’t ready to give it up quite yet and i stuck with the I phone despite the promptings. A month later my i phone 5 was dramatically stolen. I was upset but also floored. Was this what was supposed to happen? (thinking of my promptings from a month before). I almost laughed. What happened next was unprecedented. I WENT AN ENTIRE WEEK WITH NO PHONE. The first couple days I felt naked, always reaching for it. In the downtime at school on break or at lunch I would go reach for it only to remember it wasn’t there.
I spent most of the social experiment type of week alone. What happened was miraculous. After the withdrawals I actually began to embrace the loneliness. No one could reach me. I felt complete freedom, more than I have in a very long time. I went home after work and would go about my daily routine, this time even more productive than the after I cut out the social media. I started to feel the spirit in my life in greater abundance. One night I went out to the pool alone of course and found myself starting a conversation with God while looking up at a prominent star. Then I started singing primary songs softly to myself. I haven’t done that in a very long time.
I can’t begin to tell you the thoughts and impressions that I had during the week with no phone. I felt the spirit stronger than I have ever before. Instead of getting my phone stolen becoming a curse I let it transform itself into a blessing and it has been sweet. I went to the AT&T store today and downgraded to a 30 dollar talk and text only phone. It is getting the job done. My sausage fingers have a hard time texting on the phone so it forces me to call those close to me. It has been a blessing in disguise. I am speaking from personal experience. It’s not until your stripped of your ego and everything EXTERNAL that you hit rock bottom and have to look inward.
It is there that you see into your divine potential and that your spirit is sacred and delicate. In humility you seek the face of God and a relationship with Christ and the Holy Ghost to give you strength. His word becomes delicious to you and you begin to read more of the text messages from God in his holy books than from your social circle. We are preparing for the Savior to come again at his Second Coming. It is essential that we know our divinity and we act as children of God. He need warriors on the front lines fighting for him. This may mean that we get hurt by the world from time to time. We cannot escape the world and disconnect forever.
If I had it my way I would run off to an island and just live the simple life and be done with it all. But the Lord expects more. He expects us to go forth boldly and declare the word to all those around us. The technologies in this world will allow us to reach many more of his children but its important that we use them as tools cautiously. Its incredible the work that is done online and now even missionaries can use Facebook! With self-control and self-awareness we can harness these technologies and use them to our advantage to promote goodness and righteousness and spread the gospel in todays spiritual dark world. After all it may be through modern technology that the all inhabitants of the world on both sides of the earth are able to see the Savior descend from the sky at his coming.
I realized after my week with no phone that the isolated life was not going to bring me happiness. When they discovered the runaway young man in the movie “Into the Wild”, by his side was the phrase, “HAPPINESS IS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.” I decided that I couldn’t bask in my new-found sunlight of solace forever. After a “Time to Disconnect.” Now I am gradually deciding to assimilate myself back into social media and eventually I am sure I will get another I phone. Now I move forward with a stronger sense of self and greater perspective and greater caution. I know that Satan would want to turn me against myself and into an ego centered superficial zombie with no soul.
But I know better. I will use the outlets not as unhealthy distractions but as calculated tools to achieve God’s greater purposes. I know that this blog is one of His purposes. I love the Lord and His church. I know that its is true and I would encourage each and everyone who reads this to take a look at their social media and phone habits and make sure that you’re not off-balance. Whether its time to disconnect, reconnect, or move forward fulfilling Gods purposes is something only the Holy Ghost can communicate.