Social Media and Spiritual Life

Modern means of communication break into private life, and Orthodox Christians are no exception. Almost all parishioners and clergymen periodically illuminate their face with the bluish light of a smartphone screen or sit in front of a computer in order to log in to social networks, chat with friends, find out news, read edifying teachings and quotes from wise and sometimes very wise people sent from one group to the other in the form of all these touching images and cards. In the vastness of the world’s network, a certain term has already been formed – “orthonet”. It denotes the Orthodox segment of the Internet.

Indeed, the Internet is a great thing that allows you to instantly receive and provide information, learn, share experience and, most importantly, communicate. And every Orthodox Christian can use this tool as help in his spiritual growth. Probably, the accusatory sermons of some unreasonable zealous Orthodox Christians, rejecting all new inventions of the human mind and declaring the computer, phone and Internet a devilish obsession, have long passed away. In this regard, it is obviously worth recalling apt words of one of the venerable and respected hierarchs: “It is easier to call television a demon than to go to television and preach there”. The same logic, no doubt, is suitable for characterizing the attitude of a Christian to the latest inventions of mankind, including the Internet. After all, the apostles used the technical equipment of their era – sailed on ships, travelled on chariots, sent letters to their disciples, etc. And the saints of all time were not afraid and did not refuse various innovations. Therefore, we, the children of our time, can and should use the advantages that the era gives us.

But sometimes many people forget that there are always two sides to every story. And, by giving the Orthodox Christian new opportunities to preach the Gospel and grow in spiritual life, the Internet as the World Wide Web offers us new forms of temptation, which can become a huge fly and undo all our good undertakings.

Probably the very first temptation is the temptation of time. It is no coincidence that among the users of the World Wide Web there is a saying full of bitter irony: “The Internet is a wonderland, you go online for an hour, but disappear for a day.” Indeed, communication in social media and instant messengers, viewing countless interest-related websites and videos on YouTube are so addictive that a person loses the sense of time. And then it turns out that there is not enough time for prayer and reading the Gospel. You wanted to do a good deed – to share a quote of the holy father with a friend in Christ, but got into it with some scoundrel in the comments, you cursed him, lost your peace of mind, could not pray and lost your day for Eternity with a restless heart. Sometimes reading some news or posts on the Internet knocks a Christian out of a peaceful and calm state of mind and he loses the opportunity to pray calmly. This is especially familiar to young people and children who have not yet learned to control and manage correctly their time. What’s to be done, then? Refuse the Internet and social media? Apparently, if there is absolutely no strength to resist temptation, such a way out of the situation may turn out to be the only right one, because it can save you from Internet addiction.

But more often you can do with less radical methods. You just need to manage your time correctly. It is enough to decide how much time we can devote to poking around in our own mobile gadget per day? An hour or half an hour, provided that all urgent tasks are solved and all necessary deeds are completed? Then let us set our alarm clock for the time we need and when it rings, we ruthlessly turn everything off and proceed to the most necessary and most important thing – prayer.

Another temptation is a special form of vanity, which finds expression in likes race. The priest posts a soul-saving thought on Facebook or writes a good sermon and glances at the screen every minute – who comments on him, who likes his idea, how many likes? The question then arises: for whom are you doing this, for whom are you preaching? If you do this for Christ, if you understand that you are doing the work of God – well, why do you care then about the world reaction? You are a sower, your business is to sow, and God Himself will grow and harvest. If this activity is performed by a shepherd to satisfy pride and vanity, then such a poor excuse for a priest can justly be called an adulterer of the word of God.

In communication in social media and various Orthodox groups, there is one subtle temptation, which is very dangerous for both the clergyman and the layman. This is danger to mistake falsely an artificially limited group of people with some particular attitude for the real world and a real situation in it. It is very convenient and comfortable to hide in your little world, in your “case” and aggressively cut off all those who disagree with your opinion. Someone writes a comment that does not meet your views – just ban him, and no problem. And again, everything is good, cozy and comfortable. But we must understand that the Internet is not a real world at all, but only its simulation, sometimes bright, sometimes ugly, but always distorted, not reflecting all the richness of life in all its diversity. And in order not to get in this pseudo-reality forever, you need to give yourself the opportunity to breathe the air of genuine life. For clergy, this is the most productive communication with real parishioners, the solution of their spiritual problems, prayer for them and with them. For the laity – frequent communication with spiritual father and desire not to fall out of the reality of communion with God in sweet fairy-tail “orthodoxy”, which has nothing to do with genuine Orthodoxy.

Sometimes Internet communication seeks to replace the most important communication – with neighbors. It is no accident that one child once said: “I would like to be my mother’s phone so much for her to spend more time with me!” We must understand that no virtual communication can replace the joy of communication with our family. And if the Internet and phone make our children unhappy, then why are they needed? If the Internet and the telephone become our teraphims – house gods, devouring our communication and our family happiness, then we will be condemned together with idolaters.

Probably, it is important for every Christian to learn, when coming home, to put off his phone and tablet, turn off the computer and laptop, not paying attention to them. Then our life will open before us new facets and new perspectives, and not narrow down and diminish, gradually focusing on just one thing – electronics.

Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds

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