Does the Media I Consume Really Affect Me?

Digital Only: Young Adults

Does the Media I Consume Really Affect Me?

Whether we realize it or not, the media we consume affects us. So how can we choose media that’s “of good report or praiseworthy”? (Articles of Faith 1:13).

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When I played tennis in high school, I often heard the other players swear. I tried to not let their words affect me. But during one of my matches, I missed the ball, and a crude word slipped out of my mouth. Without me even realizing it, I had slowly become numb to the words they were saying until it felt natural for the “natural man” (Mosiah 3:19) in me to use them as well.

What we surround ourselves with can affect us in many ways, and one of the most influential things that surround us every day is media. Whether or not we realize it, the types of media we consume can slowly, almost imperceptibly, distort our reality. We might think that occasionally viewing media that contains profanity, sex, or violence has no effect on us, but the truth is that it does. So what can we do about it?

Choosing to Seek after Good Media

It’s important to remember that, despite all the awful things we can access through our televisions or smartphones, there is good media out there. Missionaries share the gospel through uplifting media. We might reconnect with an old friend or find a message that really lifts our spirits on social media. But how can we seek after this virtuous, lovely, and praiseworthy media? (see Articles of Faith 1:13).

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered this unfailing test: “If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.”1

Whenever I choose media, I like to ask myself questions like these: Is it helping me draw closer to God? Can I still feel the Holy Ghost in my life? You might also want to use these questions to guide you as you seek out positive media. And while we may make mistakes, we can be better—one choice at a time.

I’m not a perfect example of this. I have watched popular shows that didn’t motivate me to be a better person. And I scroll through videos on social media that sometimes contain inappropriate language. But I’m trying to be more mindful. Each day I’m trying to choose uplifting media.

Whose Voice Are You Listening To?

In this busy world, I have a hard time sitting still in silence. I seem to pull out my phone to scroll social media or stream videos to fill the silence. But I most often recognize the Spirit when it’s silent. So I am trying to be more aware of the voices of the world that I unintentionally let drown out the still, small voice (see 1 Kings 19:11–12).

Here are a few ways we can all begin taking control of our media usage:

  • Start by being more aware. Stop mindlessly watching. Take the time to really think about what you’re bringing into your mind—will it distance you from the Holy Ghost?

  • Pay attention to when and why you are using media. Do you take time to sit in silence and feel the Spirit? Or do you tend to pull out your phone in quiet moments, like I sometimes do?

  • Consider taking regular breaks from media, maybe as part of your Sunday worship. Taking breaks from media can help you become more sensitive to its effects on you.

Make Conscious Media Choices

Choose to be intentional about and aware of the influences you invite into your life. Choose to reassess and really ask yourself what effect your media is having on you. You may even need to step away from certain books, movies, social media, or podcasts to notice the imperceptible effects they may be having.

But it takes time! Our journey of striving to be in the world but not of the world is a process of refinement (see John 17:11, 14–15). Little by little we can try a little harder to be a little better. President Russell M. Nelson said, “The Lord loves effort.”2 Over time, we can become refined to be pure like the Savior. If we slip up, we can repent and turn to Him with real intent and be refined even more! That’s the miracle of Jesus Christ’s Atonement.

When I’m immersed in popular media, it’s hard to determine if the voices of the world are having a negative effect on me. But I know that when I take the time to step away from media, I can see which influences I need to remove from my life. Sometimes it’s a difficult choice, but it’s worth it.

I’ll be honest—that tennis match wasn’t the last time I ever said a bad word. But when I realized how exposure to that environment was affecting me, I made the deliberate choice to change the people I surrounded myself with. We can make the same intentional choices with the media we consume.