Point: Social media is awesome. It brings the world together, it allows for a wide range of opinions to be expressed, and it provides an opportunity to know what’s happening around the world in the blink of an eye.
Counterpoint: Social media is terrible. It gives space for groups promoting hate to spread their nasty message, it opens people up to attack from anonymous online trolls, and it shifts people’s focus away from what’s really important in life.
The truth lies somewhere in the middle, of course, but one thing that I can’t ignore is the growing prevalence of immediate intense reactions and hot takes within seconds of something happening.
Within seconds of political news breaking, we have a feed filled with very serious opinions about what happened. Within five minutes of a celebrity posting a picture of a hamburger on Instagram, there’s a line out the door at the restaurant they posted from. Within a matter of moments of me sharing a joke on Twitter, people are busy pointing out that my joke isn’t actually funny.
That last one happens more than the rest…
But it’s the rigid opinions that I find difficult to swipe pass without allowing the negativity to seep into my soul.
In the Catholic world, this seems to happen every time Pope Francis says or does pretty much anything.
For example, recently news came out that Pope Francis was establishing a new Institute For Marriage and Family Sciences, replacing an institute that was originally set up by St. John Paul II in 1981. In his motu proprio announcing the move, Francis noted that he felt it was needed given new pastoral challenges and the complex realities of family life facing the Church in the present age.
Within moments, my social media feed was filled with opinions. I can’t imagine how anyone could have read the motu proprio in that amount of time, let alone have taken the time to ponder the decision enough to arrive at an actual educated conclusion.
And yet, there it was for all to see. Everything from “The Pope is pushing forward with his desire to destroy the Sacrament of Marriage,” to “Is this move laying the ground work for a change to Church teaching on contraception?”
I had to log off.
In the age of social media, it can start to feel like people care more about controversial takes that generate clicks than looking at the bigger picture and sticking to the truth and reality of the matter.
As Catholics, we are called to take the narrow path, the road less traveled, and this includes the way we interact in the world of social media.
Let’s make an effort to resist the need to have an immediate and intense opinion about the news of the day, and instead take time away from our phones to pray.
Pray for our Church, pray for our world, and pray for ourselves.
After spending some time in conversation with God, we can return to our glowing screens with a renewed perspective, a hopeful outlook, and content that builds up rather than rips apart.
God wants us to use social media, I’m sure, but he wants us to use it as a beacon of light that leads people into a relationship with him, and that’s worth remembering that each and every time we post.
Tommy Tighe is a Catholic husband and father of four boys. You can find out more about him at CatholicHipster.com.