Today I woke up and headed over to daily Mass. As I was sitting there in the church, my mind was wandering, as it often does. I began thinking about this cool looking picture of myself that I took and how I was going to make it my cover photo on facebook. I had taken a break from social media for Advent, but now that this little fast had ended, my mind was thinking about it again. Though I was a bit distracted as the Mass began, as soon as the lector walked up to read the Word of God, I became suddenly focused on what he was about to proclaim.
“Do not love the world or the things of the world.
If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world,
sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life,
is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.
But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
I’ve heard this passage many times. However, most translations read “the pride of life” rather than “a pretentious life.” I couldn’t remember ever hearing this version. That word, “pretentious,” it stood out to me. I knew what the word meant, but only in a vague sense. I couldn’t remember the exact definition of it. I would have to look it up later. What I did realize was that this passage was speaking directly to me in that moment. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Then the priest began his homily. He spoke about social media and how we all try to present the best image of ourselves. Again, this was spoken directly to me.
When I got home I looked up the definition of pretentious. “Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.” Pretentious. I had always associated that word with people who look down on others. I had never considered that it could apply to someone who simply tried to make themself look good. It instantly struck me. “I am pretentious,” I thought. This is exactly what I do on social media. Facebook is literally a platform for making ourselves look good. It’s a platform for cultivating pretentiousness. As the passage from 1 John says, “this is not from the Father, but is from the world.” Now I can’t say whether social media is completely rotten or not. There seem to be some good uses for it. Right now I’m using it to share this reflection. However, it’s probably worth considering how we use it and why we use it, because there are certainly dangers to it. When I think about the benefits I’ve experienced compared to the negative things I’ve experienced, the negative things greatly outweigh the positives. From anxiety to envy to disagreements and arguments, there have been some serious consequences to my social media use.
I don’t want to be enticed by the world. I want to do the will of God and remain forever. That’s easy to say. However, it’s been extremely difficult for me to completely delete my social media accounts, and I don’t think it’s because of any definite consequences. I think it’s likely due to a psychological addiction, which is just further evidence of the dangers. So for now, I am going to try to limit my use. However, I am certainly considering leaving it behind altogether. With the advent of Meta, there might be a line in the sand that needs to be drawn before we are consumed into a virtual reality, being drawn in by a strong delusion.
William Joseph Scheremet