Be in the World, but not of the World



“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect” (Romans 2:12).

On Sept. 9, 2020, a documentary–drama titled “The Social Dilemma’ was released on Netflix. It created quite a buzz because the information shared touched the lives of anyone who uses social media. I suspect that many of those who viewed this program had some inkling as to the information provided, but maybe not the statistics or the overwhelming extent of social media’s reach.

Didn’t we know that we all spend too much time on devices and that they have replaced time we once spent in personal human interaction?

Have we all not witnessed individuals gathered in a social setting paying more attention to their phones than those they have gathered with?

Have we not been made aware by mental-healthcare professionals and educators over the last several years that the isolation that results from extended phone use has led to greater experiences of anxiety and depression, especially among our youth?

Given the political climate in our country and the division present, I’m sure most of us were not surprised to see the increase of this division in correlation to the use of social media. I think these are all things that we had some clue about.

Even though we may be knowledgeable about some negative results of social media use and applaud the good it has brought forth, there may be several things this documentary brought to light that may not be quite as apparent and that we might want to be cognizant of.

It is important for us to understand the design of social media. Its goal is to draw you in and provide things that will be of interest to you that will keep you coming back. “The Social Dilemma” enables us to see how economics drives this industry, how algorithms are employed and the changes physiology all play out in the use of social media.

As with all things, we need to ask ourselves what we think about all of this in light of our Christian way of life. Please know that this is not my question but has been the question of the Catholic Church in many matters that have confronted society – Industrialization, Economics, Work, Science and Modern Communications.

As disciples, we must always be asking ourselves – How does this or does this not allow us to live out gospel values, respect the human person and promote good? The beauty of God’s design is that he has bestowed us with the gifts we need to discern the answers to these questions. He also has given us the ability to reject what we come to know as detrimental while embracing and promoting those things that will lead to building up the kingdom.

In the quote from Romans 2:12, we are reminded by St. Paul that, yes, we indeed occupy a particular space and time in history – but it does not dictate to believers how they are to live. It is the life and teaching of Christ that is to inform and instruct no matter where we find ourselves situated. It is his will we seek.

So in 2021, as we continue to be immersed in the world of social media and as with all things, we call upon the Lord of light to illuminate for us how we may best use it to bring forth the Good News.