Candidates worry social media break could hurt campaigns

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Some woman candidates for public office, who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are worried that a recommended social media break could hurt their campaigns.

Russell M. Nelson, the president of the church, challenged women of the faith to take a 10-day break from social media, “and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind,” The Salt Lake Tribune reported .

Republican Salt Lake County Council District 4 candidate Michelle Quist said she “panicked” when she heard the news, as the invitation to break comes less than a month before the midterm election and days before ballots were mailed out.

“I thought, you know, what am I going to do?” Quist said. “Social media is such a big part of campaigns, especially local campaigns for candidates who don’t have a lot of money. So obviously I want to follow my church leader’s directions or request, but I don’t want to hurt my campaign.”

Quist, a former columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune, said she has decided to take a compromise approach, with a 10-day break from personal social media while maintaining her business and campaign presence.

Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton, who is running for re-election in District 3, said she’s taking a similar approach.

“I’ve decided to limit my social media usage to 30 minutes a day, just so I have a chance to still be responsive to constituents,” she said.

Though the invitation was issued only to women of the faith, Nelson had urged Latter-day Saint youths around the world to abstain from social media for one week earlier this year, warning them of the “spiritual risk” of paying more attention to their social media feeds than to “the whisperings of the Spirit.”

Rozan Mitchell, a Republican candidate for Salt Lake County Clerk, noted that Nelson “never said” Latter-day Saint women should start the break “immediately,” so she’s decided to wait until after the election is over.

Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, is running for re-election in House District 42 and said that while she likes the idea of taking a social media break, she also will wait until after the election.

American Fork resident Jessica Steele has chosen to opt out of the social media blackout.

While she said she supports the premise, she said she worries that women of the faith who do participate may become politically disengaged at an important time.

“Briefly stepping away from the overwhelming dump of news and opinions plaguing our nation at the moment can be healthy in moderation,” Steele said. “But there are also times where I think it can be irresponsible to step away. And one month prior to a critically important midterm election is one of those times.”

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