This blog post isn’t, properly speaking, about the Church or Catholic life. But it is about life for people in 2019, and it is relevant to every single person reading this right now. Every single one.
I’ve mentioned the insights of Simon Sinkek in the past. Today, on the heels of a number of online discussions about how much time we waste arguing on the Internet about things we don’t really have direct control over (provoked by the seemingly unlimited number of conversations about the Covington Catholic incident at the March for Life) my friend Hilary White came across this gem and passed it along. It’s short, and I ask you to please watch it before you continue reading:
I wrote something about this on Facebook, and rather than re-write the whole thing, I am going to just paste it here. This is a theme I intend to revisit this year because I don’t know how much more we can all take of this thing where we marinate in the bad news of what is happening in the Church and the world, our eyeballs glued to the train wreck, and none of us really knowing what to do next.
Sinek is 100% right. We’re spending all our time here on social media obsessing over the stories of people we don’t know and arguing about it for hours on end and meanwhile our spouses and children are neglected and reality becomes an ancillary thing and we might as well all be brains in vats jacked into the matrix. Even the irony of posting this here isn’t lost on me.
I’ve been on the Internet for 27 years this spring. 27 years. I’ve actually owned a cell phone for roughly 17 years of that. I’ve owned a smart phone for maybe 12 years of that. And every year, it gets worse, it gets easier to zone out and tune in and scroll, and I wonder what my three year old thinks when she’s trying to talk to me and I’m speaking to her but I’m looking at this infernal machine.
Between our outrage addiction and our need to waste every moment of down time and our inability to have real relationships with real people because our sanitized online relationships are easier to manage and far less complex and you can always block someone online who is a pain in the neck all the time…we’re losing ourselves. I forced myself to go to lunch the other day with my phone left at home. Do you know how hard that was? Especially because the person I was with didn’t? Every time they picked up their phone, no matter how valid the reason, I suddenly felt completely alone and insecure about what to do.
I go to my office with the intention of working and I ALWAYS check social media first. Always. That’s where the news is. That’s where my friends are talking about the stories that matter. That’s where all the notifications are that I haven’t checked since the last time I was near an internet-connected device. And I can’t tell you how many days I throw up my hands in frustration because I got nothing meaningful done and the time is gone and we need to make dinner and do chores and say prayers and I just want to try one more time to finish something but social media is alerting me that there’s 49 new responses and I just need to check those first…
I don’t know how to do the kind of work I do without being connected but I also don’t know how to do it WHILE I’m connected. This stuff is ruining us. It’s ruining our brains. It’s ruining our relationships. It’s ruining our ability to have situational awareness and avoid danger and see the beauty that’s going on around us — or see the beauty going on around us without posting it to Instagram and making sure it gets shared to Facebook and Twitter, too.
I don’t have an answer, and I’m guaranteed to be the world’s biggest hypocrite on this, but something has to give. This is not how we were meant to live.
These tools we have are useful. Without the Internet we couldn’t fight back on so many of these things. Bishop Schneider has made specific mention of the power it has given to good Catholics to fight against the corruption in the Church. Our ability to produce compelling content that counters the prevailing narrative is a huge blessing, and it should not be taken for granted. We can’t give up on it. But we also can’t be completely consumed by it.
Consider this the first foray of possibly many into a discussion I think we should all be having. With no end in sight to the crisis, we need a gut check on our habits. We need to be acting and living and working in ways that are spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy, or we’re not going to get through it.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.