In his address, “Things As They Really Are,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints covers a wide variety of the effects of the media on our souls, specifically on us as physical beings.
He speaks extensively of the importance of our physical bodies, and makes it clear that our choices regarding the use of the various media available to us greatly affect the well-being of our body and should be made in in such a way as to support us in the physical world, rather than limit our interaction with it.
He presents a fascinating media theory involving modern technology. Many modern media technologies allow for simulations which afford a high degree of fidelity. “Fidelity” is defined by Elder Bednar as similarity between reality and a simulation of reality. The theory is simple but powerful: simulations that afford a large degree of fidelity can be a powerful tool if the fidelity is high and the purposes are good, or they can be a spiritual and physical impairment if the fidelity is high and the purposes are bad, such as enticing us to do things we would not normally do or would usually find repulsive, just because it is “only a game.” He reasons that high-fidelity simulations, taken in excess, can distract us from and distort our view of the world around us, taking from us our perception of things as they really are and suggesting to us a view of things as they really are not.
This theory is demonstrated in many examples. Elder Bednar cites one, of Mr. Hoogestraat, who is unfaithful to his wife (in spirit at least) through the high-fidelity simulation of Second Life.
In my own experience, I have regularly seen many young men and women act in ways that they otherwise would not due in large part to the simulations that they frequent. My brother and I use many figures of speech taken directly from Internet media, especially memes and Youtube videos. Many young people don’t interact with the physical world at all, spending nearly all their time engaged in video game simulations. Men young and old curse and swear and say things they never would even consider saying in reality, all in reaction to the outcome of certain video games. Many simulations allow them to put on a mask of anonymity that they feel makes them safe.
The question raised by Elder Bednar’s theory is: Does what we do in a simulation affect or reflect what we do in real life. Is our virtual conduct a mirror of ourselves, or a window to what is really found in our soul?