Do you ever ask yourself whether it is alright to stay plugged-in to the internet?
I have struggled with this question since I was first drawn, overwhelmingly so, to this new form of communication six years ago. I already loved email, then I discovered Facebook and discussion forums. I could engage with people from all over the world with different perspectives. Having never been good at small talk, I loved the stimulation of discussing issues I am passionate about right from the helm of my desk at home, and I was obsessed.
I became convinced that every possible spare minute must be devoted to converting hearts and minds through this marvelous new channel, of which I was now Queen, and I began to ignore the daily mundane needs of my family – you know, things like meals, laundry, cleaning, whose birthday it is. I knew I’d hit an unacceptable low when I considered putting out buckets of dry cereal and juice in the kitchen so the kids could feed themselves breakfast, lunch, and dinner while I soldiered-up on the internet all day with the Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background. Glory, hallelujah, I had to fight!
In thinking through the problem, I realized I could not give it up though. In spite of my failings to manage online time, I still sensed there was something inherently good about this ability to communicate. So, like anything else we build in our lives, I decided to try to understand the motivation, and figure out how to grow in virtue and avoid vice, to establish a companionship with the internet, a mutually good relationship.
Why the desire to use the internet?
Let us get a bit theological for a moment. These are significant concepts to consider when we wonder why it is social media has been so successful.
1. Unity. God created the entire human race, we are all united. Christ came into the world to give new life to the entire human race and unify it. He prayed “that they all may be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…” So we seek unity, to communicate with others. The internet is proof that all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, have an innate longing to be united. That’s why we found a way to globally connect so readily.
2. Communication. God made us in His image and likeness which means in our soul we have the same desires that God Himself fulfills perfectly, eternally, and co-equally in His internal life, the Blessed Trinity. Theologians described the Trinity as “…three persons but one absolutely simple essence, substance or nature…consubstantial and coequal…” (Fourth Lateran Council) That means that the Trinity is perfect communication, perfect sharing, perfect relationship. Humans are made for the same, we long for it, we need to be in communion, to know and be known, to love and be loved, to belong.
3. Evangelization. We live in the age of the New Evangelization. We are commanded by Christ to be disciples. It is our duty to evangelize, and the internet is a global platform. Pope Paul VI said, “It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame…we fail to preach it?” (Evangelii Nuntiandi) He saw the coming opportunities for internet evangelization, and today we have that opportunity at our fingertips.
In short, using the internet is a good way for a busy mom (or busy anyone) to fulfill the duty to evangelize, to answer the call to ecumenism and to dialogue with people she otherwise would not be able to dialogue with. Still, to avoid vice, internet use needs to be accompanied by prayer and discipline.
Pray for these things.
Like many of you, I have a crucifix, holy water, prayer cards, candles, and rosaries at my desk to remind me to strive for holiness as I pray.
1. Humility. Whether you run a blog or interact on Facebook and Twitter, or any other social media platform, there is a strong tendency to let pride make you think you can save the world. Remember, you need a Savior just like everyone else does. I struggle mightily with pride, I like to be right and I like to let big audiences know that I am right, so I pray often, “Lord, deliver me from pride. Knock me down hard when I need it. I want to do Your Holy Will.” Humility is good for growth.
2. Effectiveness. Do not despair if you do your best, and it seems to have no effect. We need to let God be God. I pray daily, “Lord, use me. Fill me with your words, grant me the peace of knowing that You are at work in the whole world.” We should strive for excellence, and use the opportunity to write to other people as an opportunity to improve our communication skills. Respect for language shows respect for human dignity, and that speaks louder than you might realize.
3. Others. Many of you reading this already know, there are so many opportunities to pray for others when you interact online. Pray daily for all whose paths you cross. “Lord, bless each person I communicated with today, bless my enemies, and grant me the vision to see them as You do.” I no longer try to avoid people who disagree with me. I strive to do better at communicating with them, and to speak the truth in love.
So what does my day look like?
Well, mostly like a frazzled mom’s life. There are still days when I fail to balance my internet companionship with everything else. In general, though, my internet time is woven into everything else, just like so many other things are, and I find that it is a good and enriching.
There’s a theological word that describes the perfect communication in the Holy Trinity and ever since I heard it, I think of internet communication among the human race as electrons and radiation continuously run around the planet and connect people. That word is “circuminsession.” It is a word that describes the perfect, eternal flowing of life and love between all three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, perfect unity in perfect diversity. As imperfect as we are, we are kind of like that in cyberspace, a constant flow of life and love.
Approach internet time as a learning curve, as something to manage. I am much better at balancing it as a part of my life without letting it dominate me now. Sometimes, still, it takes much more to pry my fingers off the keyboard than it should, but I’m working on it. I wrote this piece with a baby standing behind my back in the chair running a Hot Wheels monster truck on my head until he lost it in his footie pajamas, while some little girls who were supposed to be working independently kept popping through the office door like a Whack-a-Moles.
I learned a long time ago that the most important part of motherhood is being there. We are all on a journey together. I do this because I am human, because there is a joy in sharing my life with others, one little notification, comment, and blog post at a time. Although I rarely leave my home, I’m united, communicating, and evangelizing more than ever through my internet window to the world.
~Just a mom and her internet.