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Kudos to ESPN for featuring a powerful and difficult-to-watch video that directly demonstrates how deeply some have fallen into a great evil born of social media illusion:
- That we may vent our spleens and wield our aggressions with impunity, because we cannot see (and do not have to face) the person we are devaluing.
- That talking smack, and name-calling, and adopting a virtual sneer-and-swagger for our virtual “friends” isn’t really an occasion of sin.
- That when we lob insults and threats from the safety of a keyboard, it doesn’t really mean anything, because after all you’re “basically a good person.”
It may be true. You may be, basically, a good person. We might all be basically good. But if we’re in social media and we’re enjoying the opportunity to talk about someone, or deride them to our “friends”, or directly abuse someone because he or she bothers our worldview, or doesn’t look the way we think they should, then we are always, always, always revealing more about ourselves than about the subject of our wrath, or our “corrections” or our derision.
One thing being revealed is our lack of charity; another is simple cowardice, because it’s so much easier to say things to a keyboard than to someone’s face.
A second revelation is that we have suffered a complete collapse in our understanding of the dignity of the human person, including our own.
And of course, one more thing is being revealed: that in one’s need to vent, to mock, to deride, to engage in a virtual assault, one has become out of alignment with heaven — especially if one feels “good” about a day’s work on social media, pummeling people and then collecting cheers from the echo chamber that encourages it.
If that’s the case, you very likely have fallen out of step with Christ.
Jesus, who some argue corrected “harshly” at times, acted with an authority of God and a purity of self and purpose that none of us possess, so we have a duty to ask ourselves if how we engage in “correction” puts our souls, or the souls of others, at risk. We don’t have to ask it of our aggression; that answer should be obvious.
And then we have to look at our tweets and our Facebook diatribes and ask ourselves if we would say them to a person’s face, and then — if we still think we would — ask ourselves if we would say them, with Jesus present in our midst?
After some prayerful consideration, I am, in my capacity as Editor-in-Chief of this edition of Aleteia, including the WomenSports video referenced above. It is a hard video to watch, and if you cannot bear foul and vulgar language, even when it is bleeped and edited, then be so advised and don’t click on it. But it is important to know about. The words flung so easily from a keyboard are heinous, but they are not exclusive to female sports reporters. Female gamers endure similar abuse, as do female political bloggers and female religion writers. Yes, even the Christian ones, who often receive much more much name-calling and death-wishing from their co-religionists than from secularists.
In truth, it’s not just public, opinionated women who endure abuse — last year, former BoSox pitcher (and, ironically, former ESPN employee) Curt Schilling tweeted a congratulatory note to his daughter and then watched, horrified, as the vulgarities rolled in.
Social media can be, and often is, a tool for breathtaking goodness; I’ve seen miracles occur from prayer requests sent out, and answered by strangers. We’ve all seen families and agencies that have benefited from social media messaging.
But the medium can also be a profound occasion of sin and even a pathway to the great sin of idolatry which is always, in the end, about worshipping the thing that reflects you back to yourself.
This video touches on greater truths than it may intend. If you can bear to watch it, please do. Afterwards, you might also want to read David Mills’ piece this week, on Original Sin, and how the world’s brokenness requires women to practice “defensive living”.