The world is a nasty place, and only getting nastier. It is a selfish place. Full, sadly, of selfish people, myself included. We are simply infected with the cancer that surrounds us. It takes a tremendous effort to cleanse oneself from the dirt, the poison, the filth, that we breath everyday, nearly on an hourly basis. Far, far too many of us Christians are nasty, selfish people, who outside of popping into church on a Sunday, have very little to show that we actually believe and live the Gospel.
Social media provides immediacy, anonymity, and yet detachment between interlocutors (hence communication is really "virtual" rather than real) has become, generally speaking, a very destructive and dehumanizing tool. I too have abused social media. Like many of you, I too have felt, and can feel its seductive pull, to "get involved", to "make a stand", to "speak out" etc!
This is a grave danger that must be avoided by the Christian. I must strive to minimize my usage of it, and to periodically review and clean up - spiritually and physically - my social media. Most people (such as perhaps you dear reader) are not too interested in my opinion/s. And they are probably just as much not interested in yours. My social media footprint is very, very small (just over 16,000 followers on Twitter, which is nothing) and as such, I am deluded if I believe that I am an "influencer" (so goes the new catchphrase). And even if I were, the dangers would only be that much more magnified.
As such, the way I can "influence" is to strive to live my life as a Christian. That means, living an upright moral life, living in the moment, and living as a Christian witness to those with whom I live, and with whom I interact with. This is where God placed me, this is where I will live out my salvation or damnation. I am certainly not going to be saved by being active on social media. To the contrary, social media, usually (though not always) is a crack in the wall to sin. The sins of sloth, anger, hate, slander, ridicule, and pride are there for the picking. It really is not too difficult to enter a life of sin using social media. The greatest deception of all, is that one can walk this path into darkness believing that one is defending Christ and His Church. How tragic.
I find it bizarre to use the word "social", as given in most instances there is no direct person to person contact. Contact is, at best, undertaken in a hidden manner, electronically obscured and transmitted. True social contact is made face to face; it is, so to speak incarnational. Our Lord did not come hidden, He came in the Flesh and revealed Himself to us.
Sloth is one of the easiest of sins that social media offers. Five minutes a day, 10, 30? Maybe an hour or two, perhaps three...? Just how much time do Catholics spend on the interminable Twitter or Facebook? The question then arises: if people devote (e.g.) 30 minutes on social media, just how much time do they devote in prayer? Perhaps a two or three to one ratio? This would still be giving God short thrift. Is God only worth three times more than looking for gossip or scandal and eagerly re-tweeting it? If we want to defend the Church, the best place is in front of the Blessed Sacrament.
What have we become, when we no longer "have time" go to daily Mass, or visit the Blessed Sacrament, but we can engage in "daily" social media? Just who is first in our lives? What about our families? What about our friends? What about those who are suffering, those who are alone, abandoned? St. James called them the "widows" and the "orphans". Do we have time for them? Or, do we have only time (or too much time) for impersonal and detached social media activity? Let us ask ourselves these very serious questions.
The Sacred Scriptures are absolute on a fundamental error that has swept social media: one cannot do evil that good may come of it (Roman 3:8). Spiritual writers and directors are as firm: from the desert Fathers, through the Carmelites, to modern writers (such as Dom Chautard).
We live in an evil world and many of us feel frustrated about this evil. It is not easy to confront evil without hatred and anger. But it must be done. That is why we must increase our prayer life and also live the Christian life. The Apostles certainly confronted evil, but do you notice one outstanding thing? They were able to do this only because they lived - firstly - lives of prayer. Our Lord warned us, "without me you can do nothing". (John 15:5).
St. James provides us with great advice - indeed a litmus test - on how we should be living our lives, if we wish to be saved:
Only you must be honest with yourselves; you are to live by the word, not content merely to listen to it.
One who listens to the word without living by it is like a man who sees, in a mirror, the face he was born with; he looks at himself, and away he goes, never giving another thought to the man he saw there.
Whereas one who gazes into that perfect law, which is the law of freedom, and dwells on the sight of it, does not forget its message; he finds something to do, and does it, and his doing of it wins him a blessing.
If anyone deludes himself by thinking he is serving God, when he has not learned to control his tongue, the service he gives is vain.
If he is to offer service pure and unblemished in the sight of God, who is our Father, he must take care of orphans and widows in their need, and keep himself untainted by the world.
James 1: 22-27