I think it is easy to admit we have all found ourselves at one time or another reading online an overwhelming amount of information, good, bad, and terrifying. I doubt I am alone in admitting having the conversation with a friend, on more than one occasion, of being thankful for meeting new people and learning new things while at the same time having the feeling that logging off would be of great benefit on numerous levels. It is hard to discern sometimes the benefit of being ever connected when it takes so much work to craft a flow of information that does not rob one’s peace. At our home we recently tracked Hurricane Irma to see what preparations we needed to make and whether we needed to evacuate. In previous years, there was a slow and steady stream of information with storms, but now with more entities vying for the spotlight and everyone seeming to have an opinion about everything, it was easier for panic to creep into our planning process. During this time, I did some soul searching and decided to put together a list of ways I personally try to live my faith in a technologically overloaded world.
1. When Reading Bad or Upsetting News Offer a Sincere Prayer
The ability to gawk has taken on addict level intake for many of us. There is an endless supply of things to get upset about online. There is also a profit motive in grabbing our attention. This makes for a worst case scenario as our human nature often is captivated by misery. It is important to cultivate an environment of God’s compassion in our hearts, our homes, and wherever we are, be it terra ferma or the mysterious vast plains of digital existence. It is easy to give advice to set notifications a certain way or only visit certain sites for your news. What is harder is not allowing news to infect you and instead actively guiding the effects toward a prayer life. I am sometimes saddened that we are greatly connected but oftentimes do not use the information we learn to offer up prayers. The next time you read a tragic story about a natural disaster, stop and ask God to bless those in harm’s way and ask yourself if you can spare a luxury for that day such as takeout for dinner to give to a cause that is helping the victims. I’m not saying do this every single time, as most of us are not endless supplies of funds, but the habit connects you back to humanity and helps to eliminate the tailspin of hopelessness. It is also an Act of Mercy!
2. Write Your Representatives
On numerous occasions I have read eloquent statements by friends on social media, many of whom are “ordinary” citizens, about the news of the day. Like in the case of DACA, there are many thoughtful people with wisdom and insight who I have admired for their input. I believe many times these efforts should be heard by the people we have voted to represent us. Prayerfully writing to your representatives about your concerns is a great way to be a part of the community. As there is no authority than what is granted from above, this is a responsibility we should consider often. It is also easier than ever to reach those who make decisions on our behalf at the local, state, and national level.
3. Livestream Eucharistic Adoration
There is nothing quite like Eucharistic Adoration. I implore everyone to take the time to participate in adoration at parishes in their communities and while traveling. It has changed my life in wonderful ways. While being physically in the presence of the Body of Christ is preferred, there are many livestreams available online. I recommend opening a window or tab any time you are online. To me, this is a great blessing of our connectivity. It requires a reverence and respect which will carry over to your time on the web. Keep it visible and try not to let it get lost in your tabs. If you are unable to keep it open all day, then open it when are having a frustrating moment, need to write a difficult correspondence, or have offered to pray for someone and you have a few moments. Bookmark it and open it often throughout your day. Let it remind you that Jesus is ever present and accessible to us all. Don’t forget to thank Him for your blessings!
4. Be Reverent When You Admonish
The most destructive pattern I have witnessed online is those attempting to correct someone online. We all joke to never read the comments because it can truly be a place of exceptional malice. The tough thing for me was realizing that it is not a small segment of trolls or ill-tempered people; it is any of us at our worst. Maturity requires us to be thoughtful in our admonishments and corrections. If the intent is to sincerely bring truth to a situation there should be a great respect for how we present that truth. Be thoughtful with your points. I would argue it is much healthier to first ask someone if you can offer your experiences and then request if you can do so away from public viewing. Ask yourself first the reason you want to discuss a contentious issue with the person and always pray before doing so. Most of us would be mortified if someone walked up to us on the street and began to argue with us about a conversation we were having without some social decency first. Be careful of your own ego. It can lead you down the wrong path and destroy charity. Lastly, respect the person where they are in their faith journey. The ultimate goal is salvation for the person and for ourselves, which can take a lifetime. Practice patience.
5. The Golden Rule in Our Actions and Mary in Our Hearts
It is time to dismiss the idea that you can live a dualistic life online and it not catch up with you. I don’t mean anonymity, I mean behaving one way online to blow off steam and another in person. A house divided can not stand. Do not binge on information that troubles your mind and heart if you would not invite it into your living room. Also, practice the golden rule with your interactions. We all know how it feels to be confused, hurt, or angered by something said online. Ask yourself how you would perceive your words coming from someone else. In addition, if you find yourself overwhelmed with negativity turn the Golden Rule around and ask if the internet is treating you kindly. If not, take a break! If your work requires being online and you cannot take a break then I highly recommend number 3 on this list. Finally, I would like to invite you to be mindful of the presence of Mary in your hearts. From the birth of Jesus, Mary has had a contemplative heart (Luke 2), and I would venture to assume before His birth as well. She kept within her heart more to ponder than many of us could ever really imagine. Because of this I believe when we are in a state of information overload we would do ourselves a great service to ask her to help us learn what is good and what should be avoided in all things, but especially news we receive from the world.
In the end, Hurricane Irma was not destructive for us and I do count my blessings. Instead of overloading on updates I decided to contact friends who were in the direct path and see how they were and if they needed any assistance. I texted prayers and emergency information for those who could receive it. Tools are only as good as how you use them and I believe if one chooses to stay connected online it can have a place in our faith as long as we remain mindful of its power. How do you keep the faith when information overload starts to creep in?