31 October 2014

Purpose, Productivity, Power and Pornography

Protesters alerted by cell phone gather in Manila, Philippines. Image found here

If I've learned one thing in my mass communications graduate studies, it's the power media has to effect change. 

Especially in today's world, where ideas and images can be circulated worldwide with clicks. Protests, riots, campaigns, armies, countries rise and fall, it seems, based on the circulation of ideas. Do we understand the kind of power media gives us? Gives those around us? Purpose + Production = Power

For example:

  • In 1517 a German monk circulated one sheet of paper that threw an entire continent into religious upheaval. 
  • In 1776 a handful of traitors signed a document breaching 13 colonies from an empire on whom the sun never set.
  • In 1830 an obscure farm boy published what he termed a new book of scripture.
  • In 1852 a diminutive woman published a work of fiction on slavery in America that was credited with starting civil war. 
  • In 2001 a group of citizens in the Philippines sent a mass text "go to EDSA. wear black.” Those who received the text converged in Manila by the thousands, and the country’s ruler was deposed.
  • In 2002 a New York Times journalist with faulty sources published articles about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, persuading the Bush administration to declare war. 
  • In 2013 no Western news channels would carry the story of police brutality and freedom riots in Turkey, wary of political fallout. Turkish citizens circulated posts and pictures about the atrocities around the world. "Revolution will not be televised, it will be tweeted" was the motto. Within days, the people had persuaded the press, and the debacle aired worldwide. 
  • In August 2014 an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cut the tape on the #ShareGoodness campaign.

Thousands gather at BYU as Elder Bednar unveils the #ShareGoodness campaign. Image found here.

I encountered a seasoned man on campus that day in August as I walked from class to work. Since it was Education Week and he looked vaguely confused, I offered to walk him to the building he couldn't find.

Within a matter of minutes I discovered he was from Colorado, that his wife had a muscular disorder, that he loved to dance and that he had been one of the collars behind the creation of the Internet. 

I thanked him, almost off the cuff, for his contribution to society—and to my scholastic endeavors.

His reply was laced with regret. "What contribution? Half the people on the Web are hooked on pornography."

His reply took me aback. Sobered me. I was surprised the figure wasn't higher — 75% of LDS single men and 40% of LDS single women are reportedly addicted. I've edited books and newspaper articles on coping with pornography; I've seen it bashed on Facebook; I've seen Church articles about it; and I've heard people's personal accounts of families destroyed and lives ruined by it. I've been saddened by it all but not really motivated to do anything about it. What can I do? It's always been one of those "problems too big for me to tackle." I'm just a metaphoric drop in an ocean of sleaze. So I showed the man to his classroom and walked away, bothered.

An hour later at work I listened to Elder David A. Bednar's vision of "flooding the earth" with goodness via social media. And I realized I could tackle it. Through mass communication. I went home that day and created a Facebook account. And have been #SharingGoodness ever since.

Because I realized something: The pornography industry wields its power due to two cardinal virtues on their part — pornographers have a purpose, and they produce to achieve it — and a cardinal vice in too many of those on the receiving end, including me — we don't.

Image found here

Purpose + Production = Power. Pornographers have the equation. And they feed off those who do not—those whose purpose is not production but rather entertainment, titillation, stimulation, passive reception. They drive forward, and we lounge back. Passivity, rather than production ... so dangerous.

We have become a passive people. Or at least, I know I have. The computer, the phone, the tablet ... our means of entertainment. Our silver platter. They have technology, and they produce. We have it, and we lounge.

There's nothing wrong with scrolling through feeds, shopping online, watching clips and playing games — just like there's nothing wrong with a lunch break in the middle of a work day. But we've become a people who, in effect, live lunch. It’s ruining us.

I asked myself these two questions recently: For what purpose do I use my technology? For what purpose should I use it?

I'm not saying we need to avoid the screens. But if we're going to spend time on the screens we cannot afford to be so passive. 

Pornographers are not passive. They producePornography. With a purpose. And we sit. And scroll. And swipe. And search. And see. And let them take away our power and our dreams. We are effectively neutered by our own passivity. Our own propensity for entitlement and receiving rather than producing and contributing. Whether we look at porn or not, it doesn't matter. If we're not producing, we're a null force.

Image found here

A defense against the passivity that can result in addiction or uselessness? Production. Get busy. #ShareGoodness. Don't just "see the good in the world." Seek it out. Share it. Don’t just scroll through friends' positive posts. Produce your own. Find purpose. And produce. Create. Circulate. It's work, yes. It's fulfilling. It's validating. It's effective. It's contributing. It's powerful.

A tool for overcoming an addiction or avoiding one (and in one way or the other, we're all susceptible)? Fill the metaphoric hole you're feeling with good. Bored? Produce good with a purpose. Stressed? Produce good with a purpose. Tired? Lonely? Anxious? #ShareGoodness. Use the screen to produce something positive. With a purpose. Do it again and again and again. Keep busy. See if it doesn't fill the hole.

Fill the feeds with goodness — that kind of goodness that penetrates deeper than self-seeking, than passive pleasure, than libido and comfort level. That kind of goodness that invites a Spirit that penetrates soul-deep — that touches hearts, enlightens minds and strengthens souls. Do it for your own sake and for those you know and love, whether they suffer from an addiction or not. There's too much of personal aggrandizement and petty posting and not enough of producing with a higher purpose. 

We have the tools. So does the other side. And right now they have a lot of power. With some discipline and some purpose, we can have the power too.

Can #SharingGoodness really make a dent in our world of sleaze? I'm reminded of Mother Teresa's quote. The media ocean is huge, and so much of it is polluted. But enough "drops" of goodness become a flood. It's historically proven by the examples above.

50% of the Internet population may have succumbed to the power of pornographers. But remember Martin Luther. Joseph Smith. The Philippines. Turkey. If the other 50% become producers with a purpose ... think of the power.


  1. Cassidy...thank you so much for this post! I have been sad, fearful, frustrated, discouraged and inadequate about teaching my children proper mind sets and skills about use of technology. This post has really helped me move toward strategies and brought me such hope!

  2. Thank you, Christine! I'm glad you found this helpful. Being a mom is a brave thing. I admire you :)


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