Social Media – a Curse or a Blessing?

Today I am going to talk about something that we all struggle with. I am going to address the distraction from devices (phones, iPads, watches and other gadgets) and how that impacts our walking with God. I have made presentations on this topic at few places. Three weeks ago, I was speaking at a Catholic school in Maryland in Washington DC (USA). The children confessed to me that this is the biggest problem that is distracting them in prayer. I have no doubt that the response from today’s teenagers and grown up in most countries will not be any different.

I want to discuss about the challenges in the digital age and specifically how social media and devices distracts us. I will try to recommend the ways to discern the boundaries and how to overcome them. Centering my discussions within biblical guidelines, I want to share some stories, and wish to recommend some simple steps to get away from these distractions and how to find time to focus on prayer and walking with God. When I am speaking to you about this topic, I am telling this to myself, a similar sinner as yourself. I am as guilty as you are in this sin. I grapple with the same challenge – same problem – same addiction,at one time or other.

Let me start with a story of Rev. Pete Philips. Back in 2006, he was appointed as the Director of the Code Research Center in Digital Theology at Durham University in UK. This is a very famous 1000-year-old university. The second day he took charge, he went to the beautiful Cathedral and prayed and was reading Bible on his phone. The security came and ejected him out of the church. He did not know that the use of phones and iPads were not allowed inside the church. Remember, he was taking charge of digitization project at the very university!He did not say anything and obeyed the instruction in a humble way. Anyway, this situation has changed now. The Cathedral now allows all digital media.

You can always see people who do not turn off the phone in the church and suddenly at the most important time of the Mass, the phone rings. The funny thing is that some older generation people do not know how to turn phone off or cannot find the button in embarrassment!! I am sure many of you had that experience, especially when you get the new phone.

Let us examine one of the common behavioral change that is unique to the social media and use of devices. The smartphone and devices, for example, are causing a social connectivity reversal. It is, in fact, creating a desire to be alone in public, but at the same time,never alone in seclusion. We can escape the awkwardness of human interaction on the street and the boredom of solitude in our homes.  This awkwardness increases as the digital addiction progresses and one becomes totally socially awkward!

Let us examine this in a Biblical context and relative to Jesus’s mission on earth. In other words, let us ask this question “What would Jesus do”?  In Matthew 4:23 we read “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every sickness and illness among people”. The entire ministry of Jesus was among the people.Throughout his entire ministry, Jesus never let an opportunity to impact a person’s life pass by. He took every opportunity to meet anyone and interact and heal, if healing is needed. His love and expression of mercy was never in seclusion. He was amid people all the time during his public ministry.

Let us look at this further. Jesus did not bother:

  • Where he was doing his ministry did not matter.
  • Who he was with at the time did not matter; (Dinner Matthew’s house – Tax Collector)
  • Jesus did not think about what people thought.
  • Whether his actions were popular or not did not matter to Jesus.

The only thing that mattered to Jesus was the person, or group of people, he was ministering to, at that time. He was open and willing to greet; willing to talk; willing to heal; willing to hear; willing to comfort; and willing to forgive their sins.

Each of us are surrounded by people each and every day of our lives –  family,friends; a co-worker in the next cubicle; a friend across the room; a stranger in the chair next to you; a spouse beside you in bed; a child clawing at your leg for attention,—Jesus gives you an opportunity to love others. It is God’s invitation to know him. Do not delay; do not postpone love. Reach for it; give your whole self to it. This is what Jesus want us to do. Not to withdraw from the people and not to seek hiding places!

Pope Francis proposes some simple acts of charity during 2019 Easter message that highlights the need for engaging people around us as a true Christian. There are avenues to show love, give love, convey care and compassion, and be true to the teachings of our Lord. Here are these simple ways Pope Francis suggested to manifest love in our everyday life:

  • Smile, a Christian is always cheerful!
  • Thank (even if you do not “need” to do it).
  • Remind the other how much you love him.
  • Greet the people you see every day with joy.
  • Listening to the other’s story, without trial, with love.
  • Pause to help someone. Pay attention to those who needs you.
  • Recognize the successes and qualities of the other. Do not be jealous.
  • Find something at home that you do not use and give to those in need.
  • Correct someone, if needed, with love; do not be silent for fear either.
  • Call or visit your parents more.

We have a responsibility to the people we meet to live our lives in such a fashion that they can see God working in us and through us.We must allow Christ to work in us and through our life in such a way that you will be able to make a difference in the lives of the people you move among. As Jesus moved among the people in his life, so too must we move among the people in our lives. Social median age is no different.

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