Our virtual reality

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The nation was recently shocked with the odd story of Heisman candidate Manti Te’o’s fake girlfriend. As a figure in the public eye, Te’o sets an example to those around him. The story of Te’o highlights a modern-day problem our generation is facing: the dangers of a virtual reality.

Appearing in Sports Illustrated and caught on film, Te’o talked about his grandmother and girlfriend who died just hours apart from one other during an important time in his football career. The media was surprised to find later that his girlfriend never even existed. It appears that Te’o’s “girlfriend” was created from some Instagram photos of a girl he had never met and who was, in fact, still alive. There is debate about whether Te’o was directly involved in portraying this story to the public.

Surprisingly, as I read more about this story, I found that the girl Te’o was claiming to be his “girlfriend” was literally just a picture of some girl he had never met, used to create a fake relationship history to show the public in order to create sympathy.

Those involved in the scandal used some form of modern development in technology to fool the public into believing the reality of Te’o’s story in order to reach a career goal.

Technology in and of itself is not a bad thing. Mankind has been able to do amazing things within the last few decades due to the leaps and bounds we have made in technology.

Church leaders have said that our generation has been trained on these new technologies for a reason. We have the ability to do so much good through the abundance of means we have been given. But with every great blessing also comes responsibility.

For the past several years Church leaders have warned us of the dangers of technology. Just this past Sunday my bishop here at BYU brought the Relief Society together to talk about the dangers of technology and pornography.

Elder David A. Bednar, who has given several talks on this subject, said in an address to the Church, “We live at a time when technology can be used to replicate reality, to augment reality, and to create virtual reality. … Please be careful of becoming so immersed and engrossed in pixels, texting, earbuds, twittering, online social networking, and potentially addictive uses of media and the Internet that you fail to recognize the importance of your physical body and miss the richness of person-to-person communication. Beware of digital displays and data in many forms of computer-mediated interaction that can displace the full range of physical capacity and experience.”

Listening to this counsel and watching the developing stories of our public figures such as Manti Te’o caused me to reflect on the impact of the media in my own life.

Granted, as a journalism major, I have to be constantly surrounded and involved in media in order to do my job successfully. As a result, I may be far more involved in modern technology than most. But to an extent I think that the majority of people in our generation are heavily immersed in technology.

As trite as it sounds, I was never more aware of the effects of media than I was right after coming off of my mission. I had heard many times before serving a mission that not being able to use technology for any purpose other than for “approved missionary activities” for 18 months would have an effect on me.

I didn’t really think about this until I came home, and all of the sudden I felt bombarded with the effects of social media and technology. The peace of mind that I had been able to enjoy while on the mission was constantly interrupted by the sound of the television, the lure of Facebook, etc. Now looking back, I am shocked at how fast I got lured back into all things technology upon coming home. I am often still surprised, if I am not careful, how quickly I get caught up in the world of technology.

As I stated before, I don’t think that technology is a bad thing. (That would be kind of hypocritical of me since I am a journalist.) However, I think there is a balance.

It is important that we use modern advances in technology and science for good, rather than for our own gratification. There is nothing wrong with using technology for fun once in a while as long as it does not rule your life or infringe on what you believe to be right and wrong. In our modern age, we must all ponder what our technology consumption is doing for us and if any changes need to be made.

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