Teens and Virtuous Social Media Use
Horrified. That’s the emotion I felt after reading Dr. Meg Meeker’s recent post Bang With Friends: The Latest App for Facebook. Let’s not mince words here. According to Dr. Meeker, it’s a brand-new way to solicit sex via electronic gadgetry and a Facebook app.
While I haven’t vetted the app, I’m trusting Dr. Meeker on this one. As she details in her post, Facebook users can download the app, which then shows pictures of all their friends with the button “click to bang” underneath. The user can click on any one of their friends, and if the chosen friend also has the app installed, then s/he will get a notification that a friend wants to “get together.”
It’s altogether disgusting, isn’t it? I think what horrifies me the most is teens, even preteens, have the ability to download an app and experiment sexually under the guise of logging onto Facebook. As Dr. Meeker implores, “If you have a teen in your home, stand up for them and tell Facebook what to do with this new app.”
I believe that’s half of the solution. The other half? Arming our children with a moral compass so that when exposed to the seedier cultural elements, they are emboldened with the fortitude to make good choices.
In a few weeks, I’m giving a talk at a Catholic youth conference to discuss this very topic — how to behave virtuously while using social media. Here are a few of my planned talking points.
Be a Light
It only takes a scan of my Facebook or Twitter feeds to realize how much darkness permeates our culture. But here’s the thing: walk into any darkened room, and all it takes is one lit match to overpower and illuminate the darkness.
We are called to be that one small light as we engage with others through social media. Pope Benedict XVI refers to these social networks as portals of truth and faith, calling them new spaces for evangelization.
We don’t know how the Holy Spirit is going to use us to evangelize. Let’s go be that light of love and collectively help create an iCulture worthy of the heart and mind of Christ.
When we put on an evangelization hat and share our faith, we become a target. Someone will air something on Facebook directly attacking our faith and us. The best advice I’ve ever received for how to behave in these moments is to not react, but rather to first breathe and whisper a prayer. When we react, virtue goes away; our second thoughts are probably more virtuous than our first.
The light bulb has all but eliminated the distinction between day and night and now we can work around the clock if we so choose. That’s a problem of disorder.
And if we’re not careful, all these social media tools will add another layer of disorder. I know this well because I struggle with it. To counter this, I’ve had to engage in periodic technology fasts and set “curfews” on screen times.
Consider this. There are three spaces where “screens” aren’t necessary: the bedroom, the dinner table, and Mass/Adoration. Regarding that last one, Sister Helena Burns says your eyes should be fixed on Jesus instead! Do you (can you?) ban “screens” from these spaces?
No matter how helpful social media can be to find and develop friends, there is still a need for flesh-to-flesh communication and interaction.
Think about it this way … we are an incarnational people. Meaning, as sensory beings, God knew that it was best to send his Son in the flesh to live among us, to be a real historical figure. For if Jesus came in the flesh, if the Word became flesh, then so also must our friendships be in the flesh. Certainly friendships may grow through online correspondence, but in one way or another, we have to be present to our friends.
At the end of every day, perform an examen of your social media use. Look through your Facebook and Twitter feeds. What stories did you share, what statuses or pictures did you “like,” what messages did you retweet? Ultimately, did your social media activity point people toward Christ?
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So there you have it, a sneak peek of my upcoming talk. Given my children are preschool and younger, I don’t yet have experience helping them navigate the landmines associated with social media use. I could use some insider info here.
If your teen were in the audience, what messages would you want me to share?
Copyright 2013 Lisa Schmidt