One must keep his head on a swivel when it comes to social media. The premature death of a famous person, the misrepresentation of a photo or video, or outright lies passing themselves off as the truth are constant traps, and they are social media standard operating procedures.  

Even things that on the surface seem completely innocent, and even inspirational, can turn around and bite someone who forwards such sentiments or endorses them only to find out later they are not true. 

St. Teresa of Calcutta is not the first person who comes to mind when imagining someone worrying if their most recent TikTok video is trending. She was a little too busy for that sort of thing, even if it had existed in her lifetime. 

A meme purportedly displaying direct quotes from Mother Teresa popped up on my social media universe though, and my inner social media cynic tugged on my ear. It seemed innocent enough; 11 helpful hints on life from St. Teresa of Calcutta. Like all things online, the provenance of the document is hard to verify. For all I know, this piece of social media clickbait could have been written by a UPS driver on his lunch break at a Carl’s Jr. in Burbank.

It was irony overload — a meme with sound and saintly advice appearing on social media with content almost everyone on social media disregards. For the sake of the rest of this article, we will stipulate that these words are from St. Teresa of Calcutta. And if in time this is proved to be just another internet misinformation mashup, consider yourself forewarned.

“These are the few ways we can practice humility: To speak as little as possible about yourself.”

Mother Teresa did not live long enough to see how this sentiment was abandoned by people taking pictures of their ham and eggs and posting them online, believing the rest of the world needs to know about their culinary choices.

“To mind one’s own business.”

What is social media if not prying into what your family, “friends,” politicians, and the Holy Fathers are up to at any given hour of the day, and voicing strong, if not overly informed, opinions about them?

“Not to want to manage others’ affairs.”

This is a two-lane highway on social media. People seem just as intent on announcing personal events and struggles as others are intent to butt in with their advice.

“Avoid curiosity.”

Probably the best advice and most pertinent to social media that can be summed up in one word: clickbait. 

“To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.”

Social media by its mere structure can take the smallest irritation and blow it up into a massive mountain of ill humor. And the last time someone on social media accepted correction cheerfully was probably when Eisenhower was president.

“To pass over the mistakes of others.”

Most times it appears the only reason social media exists is to mock or accentuate the failings of others.

“To accept insults and injuries.”

Trading insults is a much more likely event than acceptance of any.

“To accept being slighted, forgotten, or disliked.”

For social media, that translates to being reported, blocked, and then unfriended; especially if one has the temerity to suggest men cannot become pregnant.

“To be kind and gentle even under provocation.”

If this truly came from the lips or pen of St. Teresa of Calcutta, then I certainly have work to do. I am much better than I used to be, but I must sometimes avoid the near occasion of social media to keep my baser self in check.  

“Never to stand on one’s dignity.”

This certainly sounds like something St. Teresa of Calcutta would say. She had no qualms traveling with plastic grocery bags as luggage or suffering the slings and arrows of public figures who despised her and mocked her. She would see taking affront to such things as a sin of pride — something we should all keep in mind when it is our turn on social media to get similar treatment.

“To choose always the hardest.” 

I am positive this is something St. Teresa of Calcutta would have actually said. She chose poverty and the despair of Calcutta’s streets over the comfort of a private girl’s school for India’s elite class. Sadly, social media is always the path of least resistance to opportunities to be crass, boorish, unkind, and rude.

Even if it turns out that these words were originally discovered on the back of a cocktail napkin, the sentiments are close to what this holy woman preached through her actions. If social media heeded these nuggets of wisdom it would be better for it, but probably less profitable for its investment class. The rest of us would just be much better.