Media choices only get harder to make as time goes by.
With every passing day, we’re presented with an even larger array of movies, music, TV shows, books, and social media to use — any of which could affect us for better or worse.
According to For the Strength of Youth, “The information and entertainment provided through these media can increase your ability to learn, communicate, and become a force for good in the world.”
But For the Strength of Youth also warns that “some information and entertainment can lead you away from righteous living.”
“The choices we make in media can be symbolic of the choices we make in life,” Elder M. Russell Ballard said in a November 2003 Liahona article. “Choosing the trendy, the titillating, the tawdry in the TV programs or movies we watch can cause us to end up, if we’re not careful, choosing the same things in the lives we live.”
But of course, the Church intentionally doesn’t provide a comprehensive list of good and bad entertainment choices. An article for youth on LDS.org about media and entertainment says, “Correct principles, not hyper-detailed lists of do’s and don’ts, allow us to exercise our agency and become familiar with how the Spirit guides us.”
Here are four questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your media and entertainment choices:
1. Where does it fit in my priorities?
“Some choose to spend countless hours in unfocused surfing the Internet, watching trivial television, or scanning other avalanches of information,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in a Liahona article. “But to what purpose?”
We shouldn’t necessarily consume a piece of media just because it’s good.
“We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it,” Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in his October 2007 General Conference talk “Good, Better, Best.” “The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them.
I can probably use my time better than watching hours of videos of baby animals, even though those videos may be completely appropriate.
With all the media choices available today, we should be able to find things in our “best” category and avoid the rest.
2. What is its purpose?
When it comes to choosing entertainment, intent matters.
For example, the Bible and Book of Mormon are full of violent stories, despite warnings about violent media.
Judges 3 tells the very graphic story of Ehud, who delivers the Israelites by killing the fat king Eglon. You might remember it as the story wherein the dagger disappeared inside the king because he was so large.
In Ether 15, Coriantumr beheads Shiz, who “struggled for breath” before dying.
There’s no denying that these are violent stories. But their purpose is to teach true principles.
On the other hand, media that contains violence simply for the shock value is probably not a great idea.
3. How does it portray good and bad behavior?
The mere presence of bad behavior isn’t enough to warrant avoiding certain media, in my opinion.
For example, there’s plenty of immorality and violence going around in the scriptures. The difference is that the scriptures portray these acts as bad.
Furthermore, I can think of several TV shows and movies that don’t contain violence, sexual content, or offensive language, but that do belittle religion and the family.
The key is how the TV show, movie, book, etc. portrays good and bad behavior.
Does it portray violence as acceptable?
Does it portray drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity as fun and glamorous?
Does it portray belief in God as silly and superstitious?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these, it may be best to avoid the media in question.
4. How do I feel after listening to/reading/viewing it?
This is where the counsel to “select only media that uplifts you” comes in.
There are songs that don’t contain any offensive language or sexual content, and yet leave me inexplicably sad all day.
Am I just better attuned to the Holy Ghost than everyone else who chooses to listen to these songs? Certainly not.
Rather, I think certain pieces of content truly affect each individual differently. Some people’s bodies can’t handle dairy products. That doesn’t mean dairy products are inherently unhealthy.
Paying attention to how certain types of content affect us is critical to making good media choices.
How well do you know what For the Strength of Youth says about media and entertainment? Take our quiz!