Answers to Your Questions: Avoiding the Perils of the Internet
Q: I’ve found the Internet to be a wealth of information on just about every subject imaginable, from technical information that is useful for my work to news, history, recipes, and entertainment. But I’ve also found that it can be a waste of time, or worse. Sometimes I come away from my time online feeling great, but other times I stumble on things that leave me feeling drained or depressed. How can I get the most from my time on the Internet?
A: The Internet does have a lot of interesting and useful information but, like anything else you could be spending your free time doing—watching movies, reading books, playing games, chatting, or whatever—some of what you find there is going to be worthwhile and some not. If you’re watching the wrong kind of movies, reading the wrong kind of books, or listening to the wrong kind of music, for example, it will have a negative effect on your spirit, because whatever you take in affects you one way or the other. The same is true of the Internet.
Stories abound in the media of college students who’ve gotten so immersed in the Internet that they’ve neglected their studies and been kicked out of college; husbands or wives who’ve neglected their mates for the Internet and suffered separation or divorce as a consequence; and growing numbers of young people who are virtually addicted to the Internet, which adversely affects their health, peace of mind, and relationships with others.
The Internet itself isn’t the problem, just like listening to music isn’t a problem in itself; it’s the misuse of it that causes problems. It’s the wasted time and the often negative or pointless input that can spill over into the rest of your life and lead to bigger problems.
Like the rest of the mass media, the value of the Internet depends on how it is used. Some use the Internet to pass on helpful news and information, exchange ideas, or sell products. And others use the Internet for ungodly purposes, such as promoting perverted sex, proclaiming the virtues of Satanism and the occult, or promoting every sort of anti-God philosophy imaginable, often through subtle means.
How do you judge whether your time spent on the Internet is worthwhile or not?—By the effect it has on you. Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:18,20). If what you read there has a positive effect on you, if it causes you to feel happy and encouraged; if it causes you to love God and others; if it motivates you toward positive ends, then its “fruit” is good. But if it leaves you feeling empty, unhappy, dissatisfied, cynical, or otherwise bummed, its fruit is bad. Don’t waste your time on “trees” (or Web sites) that are bad and have obviously bad fruit.
With so much information from so many sources, it’s sometimes hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. Just because someone said it and published it online doesn’t make it true. The Lord knows, though, and He can help you discern between fact and falsehood and guide you to trustworthy sites.
How to minimize the bad effects of the Internet:
- Have a good reason and specific purpose for going online, and stick to it. Don’t just browse for the sake of browsing. Get on, get what you need, and get off.
- Pray beforehand and while you are online, asking Jesus to guide you to what you’re trying to find and away from unwholesome and ungodly material, as well as to be able to discern between what is true or false.
- Set yourself a time limit.
- Don’t go to sites or areas of the Web that you know to be “bad trees with bad fruit.”
- Pray afterwards, asking Jesus to cleanse your mind and spirit of anything you’ve read or seen that could affect you negatively. Also ask Him how to apply any useful information you find.
- Spend equal or more time reading God’s Word, which is the source of truth, wisdom, and spiritual discernment.
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