Social media is a tool which has great potential for both good and evil. Here are five things to avoid slavery and to use it properly.
1. Cut off your hand
Our Lord said vehemently: And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body go into hell (Mt. v. 30). Therefore if Social Media is an occasion of mortal sin for you (particularly sins against the Sixth Commandment), immediately stop using it. Shut down all your accounts and get a flip phone if you have to. This is the vehemence with which you must combat the occasion of mortal sin.
The Holy See has explicitly taught that penitents must be denied absolution if a man refuses to avoid unnecessary occasions of sin. Let a man examine himself, call upon the Holy Spirit to enlighten him if social media is a near occasion of sin. If it is, let him cut off the hand and shut it down. If it is not, then he can proceed with caution.
2. Think before you speak
Again Our Lord said, Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it on the day of judgment (Matt. xii. 36). One of the traps of social media is that it allows every man to say what he pleases without any immediate consequences. People say things on social media that they would never say in person, and for which they would certainly be speechless on the day of judgment.
Therefore, recognize this trap and cut it off. Examine yourself if you are falling into this trap. Consider again the Scripture: For we must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil (II Cor. v. 10). Practice the Presence of God and speak on social media only with the knowledge that He sees what you say. Then speak with charity and truth, always considering the impact your words have on other souls and how people interpret them.
3. Maintain your peace
As we have written in another place, it is essential to keep your peace undisturbed. Examine yourself: are you continually becoming angry, anxious or disturbed when using social media? Then cut it out, regain your peace, and only use social media if you can maintain your peace. Do not be carried away by the many idle words that men say on social media. Do not be overwhelmed with things you cannot control. Do not take responsibility for more than you can. Commend all things to God and know that His Providence is over all.
4. Commit to a Social Media Sabbath
Remember always to take time throughout the day or throughout the week when you can unplug. Even if you are maintaining a very balanced social media life, keeping a social media sabbath helps you sustain this for the long term. This may take the form of unplugging for the Lord’s Day every week, or perhaps keeping a discipline of only doing social media at certain times of the day. Above all, one should be aware of a proper respect given to those around you: do not use your phone when you are with other people in person, but only when you are alone. This gives full attention to your neighbor so that you can give him the charity that is due to him.
5. Practice detachment – reject all consolations
As its founders readily admit, social media is designed to manipulate human psychology to create an addiction. This is done by giving you emotional consolations through “likes” and such things, which science has shown to release pleasure chemicals in your brain which feed addiction. A Christian man must face this as he faces any consolation: with detachment. Pray the Litany of Humility before you post something: from the desire of being esteemed, deliver me, Jesus. Reject all desires for attention, likes, retweets, whatever. Desire only the Glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Rejoice when you are calumniated, mocked, attacked, “un-followed” on social media. Rejoice especially if you are mocked for being a Christian. Hunger for humiliations which give greater Glory to God. Root out all attachments to creatures.
This is the most difficult step, but this is demanded of any Christian who chooses to use social media. Consider the wisdom of St. John of Cross, the great Doctor of Detachment, who stated that even if we are forced by necessity to receive some consolation, we must at least say “I do not want this consolation.” Repeat this prayer and ask God for the grace to always keep your soul at peace with Him.
Then and only then can you use social media and not be used by it. Then it can be a tool for the salvation of souls.
Timothy S. Flanders