Today, especially during the present political and social climate, there is much toxicity, hate, and vileness, that take place on social media. Pope Francis has warned of toxicity on social media, and in his address to the participants of the 2022 World Congress of SIGNIS in Seoul, South Korea, he stated, “the use of digital media, especially social media, has raised a number of serious ethical issues that call for wise and discerning judgment on the part of communicators and all those concerned with the authenticity and quality of human relationships.”
How many of us on #CatholicTwitter will see a certain tweet, and then respond with our emotions, not with our heads? Thoughts are racing through our minds and before we can really hash them out we have already clicked the “tweet” button. And since there is no edit button we instantly regret our decision. Sometimes we will delete the tweet after our emotions have simmered down, but how often has the damage already been done?
I made the decision a while back that when encountering a tweet that either attacks our Catholic faith or attacks me directly to take time to sit with it, and not instantly react. If there is a chance that there can be civil discourse I will respond and see where the conversation leads us, but if from the beginning I can tell that the individual is only looking to stir up emotions and get a rise from me, then I have taken to blocking their account and choosing not to engage with them at all.
I am always up for a good dialogue over our faith whether it be with our Protestant brethren or even other Catholics, but I will not take part in a fiery conversation filled with hate and vulgarities, where our faith, is mocked and belittled, and the opposing side refuses to enter the conversation with an open heart and mind towards accepting the truth. There is no “my truth” or “his truth,” there is only one truth and that is Jesus Christ.
I have found so much more peace when I choose to not engage with those who have no desire to truly listen in a conversation, and only want to continue in an unhealthy manner by throwing personal insults and tweeting about matters that have nothing to do with the original conversation. How often have I read comments on my tweets, and have wondered “What on earth does this have to do with my original tweet?” It is clear that the individual has anger and bitterness in his heart, and is suffering from wounds within them.
When I have come across tweets that are outright mean and unnecessary I make the effort to stop and say a prayer for that person, that he or she has a conversion of heart and comes to know our Lord and Savior. What would Jesus think about my tweet that is so filled with rage and has the direct goal to inflict the most damage upon the other person? Would I treat someone in such a way if I was face to face with him or her?
There is a real, living, breathing person behind that account. We do not have to return hatred with more hate. We can be counter-cultural and be the change we want to see in our world. There have been times I have wished the person a blessed day, and then went on my way. Just as I who has been created in the image and likeness of God has dignity as a human person, so does the man or woman behind each account.
It is in no way, shape, or form easy to walk away from a tweet that really ruffles our feathers, and it definitely takes a lot of effort to not fire a tweet back at them straight away, but as Christians, as Catholics, we are called to try our best to live in imitation of Christ. When Protestants and Catholics are shooting from the hip at one another about the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or whether Jesus had biological sisters and brothers, did evangelization take place by the end of an angry barrage of tweets firing back and forth at one another?
I am passionate about our Catholic faith, and I love our Blessed Mother, and just because I do not respond to such dialogue does not mean that I do not care or that I love Our Lady any less. I simply do not feel that Twitter is the appropriate environment to have a serious and heartfelt conversation about what and why we believe what we do as Catholics.
I remember sitting at a table in a pizzeria with some of my Catholic friends, and a couple of Protestant friends that we knew at the time. The husband and wife who were Protestants asked us if we could answer some questions that they had about the Catholic faith (or what they thought to be true about the Catholic faith). We had a beautiful conversation and they left with a better understanding of what Catholics actually believe, which was quite contrary to what they had been told we believe. There was no yelling, screaming, or cursing, only a civil conversation.
Social media does not seem to be able to spark such healthy dialogue between those who are of different faith traditions or even those of the same faith traditions. We have all seen the all-out battles that have taken place with regard to the Novus Ordo and Traditional Latin Mass. It is very rare that I come across a thread where people are having a civil discourse.
Let us be true to ourselves, and be who God intended us to be whether it be face to face with someone or in front of a screen. We have to try our best to remember that the person behind the other account is a human being too, and also loved by God, so next time we want to go after the other person with our all-out attack mode tweets, why not “think twice, and tweet once”?
Image: Adobe Stock. By chajamp.
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Christina M. Sorrentino resides in the Archdiocese of New York, and is a Catholic freelance writer, high school theology teacher, and author of the books Belonging to Christ and Called to Love - A Listening Heart. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Ignitum Today and has contributed to various faith-based publications including Word on Fire, Missio Dei, Catholic Exchange, and Homiletic & Pastoral Review. She has also appeared on Sacred Heart Radio and the How They Love Mary Podcast, and has been featured in the National Catholic Register's "Best in Catholic Blogging". You can visit her website at Called to Love - A Listening Heart, or follow her on Twitter.