While technology can bless lives, there is a looming danger. Like the tephra-plumes billowing over Pompeii, we live directly in the path of an erupting Vesuvius: the dark side of the Information Age. This dark side is not limited to pornography and titillating chat rooms.
From texting our fingers raw, to an endless stream of video games and twitter-mania, trivial pursuits are like lava entombing our potential for greatness. To borrow a line from Charles Dickens, “...it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness” (A Tale of Two Cities).
A life enthralled with trivial pursuits is a monument to diversion–an epitaph of things that matter least. It is “living below our privileges” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Your Potential, Your Privilege,” Priesthood Session, General Conference, April, 2011).
Medium over message
Many are addicted to gadgets, trading interaction with present company for the seance of communicating with dead games and ghosts in the machine.
Even a casual observer will admit that our fascination with gadgets sometimes kills the message for the thrill of the medium. In this way, valueless information is elevated to the sublime simply because it is dressed in colorful icons, flying thumbs, and light-speed keypads.
Today’s cell phones are mobile offices, entertainment centers and audio/video recording studios. Observe any cell-phone user with a group of friends; the tendency is to ignore present company for the long-distance demands of absentees. (See my previous article, “Be Where You Are”)
Technology as blessing and curse
Elder Neal A. Maxwell counseled, “We rightfully worry about taming our technology so that it serves us, rather than dominates us. But we cannot tame our technology without taming ourselves” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Eternalism vs. Secularism,” Ensign, October, 1974, 69).
While technology can help us be more efficient and productive, we must never trade our potential for greatness in exchange for the bright packaging of a wasted life.
Children and gadgets
If electronic gadgets, the internet and video games are addicting to adults, imagine what an opiate they can be for our children. How did my generation grow up without cell phones, the Internet and video games rated “M” for mature (code for blood, guts and sex)?
Successful parents are involved. A click of the mouse or sweep of an icon can penetrate impressionable minds with destructive images or time-wasting trivia.
There is no such thing as electronic privacy for our children. We would not sit idle for a home invasion. Why would we do so for internet intruders or electronic soul robbers? Know what your children are viewing; know what their friends are suggesting.
The blessing of pondering
The problem isn’t gadgetry or the trivia within technology; the problem is us.
Addiction to trivial pursuits is an ancient affliction. The apostle Paul observed this affliction among the Epicureans and Stoics of his day, who “spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21).
Thrilled with self-pleasing, there is little room for reflection leading to the thrill of improved character.
Consider the miracle of pondering: To the saints in the new world, the resurrected Jesus commanded his followers to “go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which
Pondering leads to understanding. By pondering the scriptures, Joseph Smith was led to the sacred grove. Revelation often comes by pondering. (see Doctrine and Covenants, section 138.)
Pondering is one of the greatest gifts of God. It requires a spiritual retreat from distraction. It enlightens our mind and cuts through the noise of our own voice. To ponder is to seek, and in seeking we find.
In another era, families worked together, ate together, and talked and prayed together. The modern trend is to retreat to the bedroom, compartmentalizing the family and fracturing the bonds of loving interaction. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
As we focus on things that matter most, the curse of retreating behind technology as a substitute for companionship yields to love and service. As we tame ourselves, we tame selfishness. Technology then becomes a tool, not a taskmaster.
There is no “app.” for self-control. For those who love Jesus, self-discipline stems from the discipline of loving God. When that happens, the tools of technology bow to the will of the disciple, rather than enslaving the will of the undisciplined. And that...is no trivial pursuit.