This is a part of a series of meditations on St. Josemaria Escriva's seminal work The Way.
I. Examination of Conscience
III. 1% Better
IV. The Plague of Social Media
V. Artificial Neediness
839. Never go into the details of your “apostolate” unless it be for someone else’s benefit.
840. May your special dedication go unnoticed, as for thirty years did that of Jesus.
– St. Josemaria Escriva
While I am a Gen Xer, I am not the most social media savvy person out there. I’ve only ever used Facebook (which I’ve quit for long periods at least three times) and Twitter with semi-regularity. To me, it seems like new platforms such as Tik-Tok pop up and disappear nearly every day.
What I find most strange is the method of use for it. Nowadays, it is easier to see personal posts from many people as a sort of advertisement. I do not want to say that I am or have been immune from these sorts of prideful actions, but the intensity at which social shares take on this attitude is shocking to me.
I do not desire this short reflection to turn into a symposium on social media in general, but I would like to focus on this “plague of sharing” that has arisen in all corners of the web. There is a certain need to discuss every iota of one’s every day life on the internet nowadays. We’ve gone from blogs to pictures and albums to videos, all documenting increasingly minor details. While I want to believe that the intents behind their creation are purely educational, I find it difficult to believe the overwhelming majority of them are so.
Attempts to capitalize on good deeds or truths (or, more shockingly, bad deeds, gossip and lies) for likes, shares and the good feelings that result from that raise a question that St. Josemaria and the Gospels clearly answer. It is so tempting nowadays to view a publishing of good deed as something trivial. When faced with opportunities to publicize these acts, however, we should avoid it like the plague lest we tarnish our actions and intentions. To do things for show is to nullify the goodness of those deeds, offend God, and our neighbors whom we initially tried to help. That is perhaps why the phenomenon of “influencers” posing during the recent riots and unrest, or their aftermath, was so humorous and cringey, for they were lame attempts at upping their social score. At our core, we realize that it’s fake and, at the very least, not good to pose like that.
What has been difficult about writing this meditation is that this advice seems so obvious, particular if you are a Christian, but social media has made it an apparently harmless and near ubiquitous practice. Sharing has become a literal plague. So what do we do? Is there any special way to act and keep the hidden things hidden?
I’d offer four points:
- Get off social media (if possible). I know this is, unfortunately, not the most available solution for all of our readers. Nevertheless, if you can, removing this great temptation for seeking publicity is the best thing to do. If not…
- Limit and delay posting. If you are unable to fully remove yourself from social media, the next best thing is to limit the number of posts you make AND, when you decide to make a post, set it to publish 12 or 24 hours later. That delay can force you to reconsider the need to make that post and whether it is more prudent to adjust or even delete it after the initial neurochemical hit wears off.
- Pray before posting. Let’s be honest, God is not the first thing on our minds when we’re using social media. At least not all the time. But if we’re able to get out of the frame of instant gratification and keep the heavenly sphere on our mind, we’re going to be less likely to give in to the temptation to over-share or share things to our detriment.
- Realize how much time it wastes. Many on social media will go out of their way to either do deeds that they can publicize or work on framing and adjusting a video, audio track, or picture so that it paints them in a better light. What a waste of time! Instead of being a fraud and phony on top of being imprudent with your time use, do your good in secret. You will use your 24 hours more wisely and have much more time to spare for other activities.
Human beings were not designed with the constant connectivity of social media in mind. Temptations to sin or harm our souls are rife on these platforms. While Escriva was not on this earth in the time of Facebook or Twitter, he realized a propensity towards vice inherent in our fallen nature, one that is being exploited for the advancement of social credit. Do not follow the mob and join them in their frenzy. Rather, be rational, prudent and just in your dealings on social media. It is what an upright, noble man would do.