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How do we use social media? Reflecting on its role in daily life

Julian Paparella

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Image from iStock.
Salt + Light Plus subscribers can catch a video version of this article in the March, 2024 episode of BEHOLD.
We live in an increasingly connected world. Social media helps us to express ourselves, find out what's going on and keep in touch with our loved ones. But of course, social media also carries risks.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently published a Pastoral Letter on the use of social media. So, the question is: How should we use social media?
The pastoral letter is entitled “Let Your Speech Always Be Gracious,” quoting St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians (4:6).
The Bishops call for a commitment to truth in what we read and share on social media, which requires us to respect one another (#9-11).
The Bishops invite us to take a step back and ask ourselves: 
  • What are the rules at home for using devices such as phones and tablets? For example, do we use them at the dinner table or before bed?
  • How much time do we spend in front of screens each day? Are we satisfied with the time we spend on social media? Would we like to spend more or less time online?
  • How does it affect our mood, our state of mind and our spiritual life? Does it leave us feeling fulfilled or empty?
  • How do we try to control our use of social media according to the priorities in our lives?
The Bishops remind us that “God does not want us to feel chained to our devices” (#27) and that social media “exists to serve a fundamental human good: the building of bridges among people by the sharing of information” (#2).
What do you expect to get out of social media in your life? Do you associate social media with building or ruining your relationships? Does it help you deepen your relationships or does it distract you from the relationships in your life?
Social media can be very useful, if we use it wisely. It's a question of managing the time we spend on our devices well, and thinking about how it can do good or harm to ourselves and others. 
Of course, we are called to be Christians in real life and also in the virtual world. This is an opportunity to bear witness, in order to evangelize the digital continent and spread the Good News of Christ by all the means at our disposal. Whether face-to-face or online, “the most fundamental way we witness to our [Christian] faith is by the quality of our lives – how we treat other people; how we handle our disagreements; how we respond to challenges and disappointments” (#6). The Bishops of Canada remind us that the commitment to truth always implies a concern for the good of others (#14). We need to communicate the truth with love, not by throwing arrows at each other, even virtually. Hardness of heart, whether online or in real life, is always a counter-witness to the Gospel.
Let us ask the Lord for his help, to enlighten us and guide us in our connectedness with one another.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Help us to recognize the evil that lies in a communication that does not build communion.
Help us to remove the venom from our judgments.
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.
May our words be seeds of goodness for the world:
Where there is shouting, let us practice listening;
Where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
Where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
Where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;
Where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
Where there is hostility, let us bring respect.
(#32, quoting Pope Francis’ Message for World Communications Day, 2018).

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