Many people, aware that online spaces can provide occasions for sin, give up social media for Lent, pulling themselves away from temptations to vain contention, meddlesomeness, voyeurism, self-congratulation, attention-seeking, sarcasm or just plain sloth. They know that the Internet’s lack of visibility and accountability can bring out the worst in us.
Clocking out for 40 days can provide a much-needed spiritual respite, but if in the end you return to the same bad habits, what have you really done? To cultivate good habits, we can learn to use the Internet to practice virtue, using the traditional spiritual works of mercy.
To “instruct the ignorant”: Too often when giving Christian instruction while online, people fall short on humility and charity. In social media, you may not know the person you’re talking to, or anything about his or her life, and it’s easy to assume ignorance. If someone disagrees with you, it may be because you know something that person doesn’t, but it’s equally likely that he or she has information you lack. If you’re open to being taught, people are more likely to see your instruction as a friendly contribution rather than an attack. Remember that ignorance is not a culpable or contemptible vice, so never assume malice when it’s possible someone is simply unaware of the facts. Offer information in a respectful way that avoids humiliating the other person. People are more likely to receive instruction well when they are not treated like they are stupid or foolish.
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