Principles for Using Social Media

Just be yourself.
social media

August 16, 2014


August 16, 2014


  1. Be Authentic and Consistent
  2. Edify and Uplift
  3. Respect Intellectual Property
  4. Be Wise and Vigilent

In the BYU Education Week Devotional this past Tuesday, Elder David A. Bednar highlighted reasons for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to invest time in social media and principles by which members should engage social media. He established context within this last “dispensation”, quoted multiple prophets of the modern church, and expounded principles through various examples of social media usages. The video can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

Most important to me, his address proves beneficial to any, regardless of religious affiliation, who are conscientious enough to ask the questions, “What decisions do I make when I go to social media sites and apps, and what is guiding me in making those decisions?” Below is a synopsis followed by my thoughts.

First, why should Latter-day Saints use social media?

Social media, among other things, can be used to create internet communities and disseminate knowledge and ideas. Because of this, Elder Bednar explains, the Latter-day Saint should thus see social media as a marvelous way of spreading messages of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. This way of using social media could naturally (and, in fact, does) include missionary work and proselytizing, but most importantly it should be centered on this goal: to testify of God, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ.

Second, how can a Latter-day Saint use social media to accomplish this goal?

Elder Bednar shared many examples, each one reflecting the goal to testify of God and Christ. Among them was a couple that, through Instagram, has provided a daily reading assignment from the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a program that results in great spiritual learning and in finishing the entire text in one year. Because of their efforts, many people who follow them on Instagram have read and pondered the Book of Mormon and uplifted each other with their insights.

What, then, should be the principles behind using social media?

Finishing with his examples, Elder Bednar then proceeded to identify some principles that answer the questions mentioned at the beginning of my piece:

“What decisions do I make when I go to social media sites and apps?

“What is guiding me in making those decisions?”

Note that answering these questions is critical. For instance, the various ways one might engage with others through social media produces, as the ‘Internet’ demonstrates daily, an exhaustingly infinite list, some ways good, some not so much. On top of this, social environments and climes are changing constantly, as fast sometimes as the social media services behind them. This leads to a ocean of complexity that can be navigated best only with solid principles as rudder and keel.

So in his typical clear and structured fashion, Elder Bednar identified the following principles:

Principles to Guide One’s Use of Social Media

  1. Be Authentic and Consistent
  2. Edify and Uplift
  3. Respect Intellectual Property
  4. Be Wise and Vigilent

Opposing principles might be as follows:

  1. Falsify my image. Exploit anonymity. Change my views at whim.
  2. Debate. Demean. Degrade. Harass. Troll. Gossip.
  3. Steal ideas. Retain credit. Speak for a group I don’t represent.
  4. Be rash and short-sighted, and short-winded.

I agree with Elder Bednar and the principles he identified. Hopefully, we all take time to consider his counsel for ourselves.

What of principles, in general?

This question intrigues me personally, and takes us beyond Elder Bednar’s address. A principle is a rule or guideline that should hold true regardless of circumstance. Mathematical principles, for instance, allow one to face new problems relying on the successful, principle-based approaches used in many previous problems. Principles in cooking allow chefs to create dishes from ingredients they have never before encountered. Certain principles of government are looked to when a new nation forms, in hopes of promoting a stable society.

So it should be when partaking in all forms of media, especially social. Unfortunately, with something so pliable as one’s personal interaction with the ‘Internet’, the principles are, for various reasons, often either contested or, more likely, completely disregarded.

This disregard for principles is dangerous, like sailing without a rudder. The wind and current might take one somewhere intriguing, entertaining, or beautiful, or it might not. Disregarding principles might lead to wasted time, needless debates and contention, numbed emotions, compromised morals, or weakened relationships.

On the other hand, choosing an online life based in righteous principles can lead to uplifting conversations, positive interactions, and increased character.

The point is, and the theme of Elder Bednar’s remarks was, that living a life based in principles yields a more sturdy, all-weather soul, constant in every season.

(Got that last phrase from Elder Neal A. Maxwell, by the way.)