The internet allows us to spread ourselves too thin; careful use of our agency is essential for getting the most out of the technology we use.
The ability to multitask by using technology allows us to be in many places at once. Thanks to the internet and cell phones, we can text our friends across town and attend events on Zoom all without leaving our homes. But what effect does this have on our agency?
In “Some Hopeful Words on Media and Agency,” a 2012 BYU devotional address, Dr. Amy Petersen Jensen discusses this twenty-first century phenomenon of practically instantaneous digital communication. First, she draws on a previous devotional given by Elder Jeffery R. Holland to emphasize the importance of conducting ourselves well on the internet. Elder Holland, she explains, reminds us that our soul is both our physical body and our spirit, as stated in Doctrine and Covenants 88:15: “The spirit and the body are the soul of man.”
With this doctrine in mind, she discusses how modern-day communicative technology “allow[s] us to project our bodies (or our souls) across vast geographies.” Dr. Petersen Jensen explains, “While I might be seated here, part of my attention—part of my soul—is back at the office, where the concerns of the email I am reading are properly housed.” This is one of the dangers that technology poses: it vies for our attention, allowing us to be in multiple places at once, distracting us from things that deserve our entire attention, our entire soul.
Of course, technology itself doesn’t inherently pull us to do good or bad. Rather, technology “[amplifies] the choices we make through our agency.” We can choose to enter almost any digital space imaginable using the internet, and our choices of how we use the internet are of no less weight than the choices we make in the physical world.
Given these considerations, Dr. Petersen Jensen offers some questions we should all ask ourselves to make the best possible use of our time on the internet:
- Am I having media conversations, or am I simply consuming the media?
- What conversations am I having about media with my family and those closest to me?
- What am I doing to improve the conversations around me when I use media to communicate?
We must carefully choose how to use the internet not only for our sake, but for the sake of everyone we interact with.
To learn more about Dr. Amy Petersen Jensen’s thoughts on technology and agency, read her full devotional address, “Some Hopeful Words on Media and Agency.”
Source: BYU Speeches
—Simon Laraway, Latter-day Saint Insights
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Find more insights
Watch Dr. Amy Petersen Jensen’s 2021 talk, “Why Our Bodies Matter in a Digital World”
Learn more about the Latter-day Saint doctrine of the soul by reading Elder Jeffery R. Holland’s talk, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments.”
Visit “Gospel Topics: Media” to find more insights about navigating modern-day media.