Tech Talk: Antisocial Media

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Be honest: Has social media become a near occasion of sin for you?

I’m not talking about the time we spend scrolling, or the tendency to tune out what’s going on around us while we focus on our phones. I’m talking about what we read, what we post, and how that makes us feel.

One day last week, I mentioned to my husband that I was upset about things I was seeing on Twitter (my favorite social-media platform). Catholic Twitter was living up to its unfortunate reputation and then some: people picking fights, people baiting each other, people calling other people names, people stirring the pot not to evangelize so much as to show that they’re right and everyone else is wrong.

May I just say right now that if your social-media profile states that you’re Catholic, you shouldn’t be doing those things.

No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.  [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. (Ephesians 4:29-32)

On that same day — within the hour that I had that conversation with my husband — CatholicMom.com founder Lisa Hendey shared on Twitter that she’s distressed about the same type of stuff that had upset me:

I have always truly loved Twitter, but lately, it has become for me a source of pretty grievous despair and a lack of hope. This is contrary to my nature, which is generally optimistic. I’ve been contemplating a total “Twitter Fast” until after Christmas. But I’m concerned…

Would isolating myself from this place feel good temporarily but also be like hiding from the “real world”, which is often full of problems and strife?

Or would taking a break help me to more clearly hear my Creator’s promptings and focus on the real-world needs around me?

I would love your input… I’m serious and especially hope to hear from friends who stay DESPITE the challenges here. (Twitter, October 22, 2019, quoted with permission)

60% of those who replied to Lisa’s poll encouraged her to take a break. (I was one of the 40% who voted that she stay.)

Later that day, Lisa shared the following reflection, courtesy of CatholicMom contributor Nathan Ahearne and the Marist Association.

Marist Minute social media

Courtesy of Nathan Ahearne and the Marist Association. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The infighting that’s been going on is nothing short of distressing. I find myself indulging in anger and in a tendency toward sarcastic or snarky comments (most of which I delete before sending). That’s not the person I want to be.

But I don’t want to quit Twitter and just leave it to the troublemakers either.

I know that if I’m going to stay, I need to make some changes in the way I consume social media and in the way I interact with others there.

The action list below is Twitter-specific. If you have good strategies for filtering other social media (I’m Instagram-clueless), please do share those in the comments.

6 Twitter Strategies for Filtering Out the Crazy, Wrong, and Just Plain Sinful

  • Mute certain words or names. (I highly recommend this practice during election season if you don’t like your Twitter with a side of politics.) How to do this: Access Settings and Privacy; choose Content Preferences; choose Muted and add to your list from there. Make sure that for each individual word or name, you turn on “mute from home timeline” and “mute from notifications” and check the box “from anyone” and you will not see that word or name again.
  • Mute certain hashtags. How to do this: Access Settings and Privacy; choose Content Preferences; choose Muted and add to your list from there. Make sure that for each individual hashtag, you turn on “mute from home timeline” and “mute from notifications” and check the box “from anyone” and you will not see that hashtag again.
  • Turn off people’s retweets. If you usually enjoy following someone but you don’t like seeing what they retweet, you can configure your timeline to leave that content out. This tip was a game-changer for me. How to do this: Navigate to the user’s profile; click the 3 horizontal dots and select “turn off retweets.”
  • Mute certain people. When you don’t want to unfollow someone, but you don’t want to see their tweets right now, take this route. It’s easy to unmute later if you change your mind. How to do this: Navigate to the user’s profile; click the 3 horizontal dots and select “mute (username).” This is the equivalent of Facebook’s unfollow function.
  • Unfollow people. It sounds a lot nicer than Facebook’s unfriend, doesn’t it? If you don’t need or want what someone’s posting, don’t follow them. And maybe if that person notices that fewer people are following them, they’ll rethink the type of content they share.
  • Use the list function. I’ve gotten away from this, but I think it’s time to revamp my lists and use them. Twitter lists allow you to filter content by whatever categories you want. If you only have time on some days to catch up on tweets from your 15 favorite accounts, why not make a Top 15 list? It helps ward off FOMO, and you get to pick whose stuff you’ll see.

Screenshot from Twitter, 10/22/2019.

 

CatholicMom.com brand manager Danielle Bean addressed many of these issues in her Girlfriends podcast. You can listen in the player below, or subscribe (recommended!).

 

A recent tweet by Marcel LeJeune offers an excellent examination of conscience. It’s worth considering these points before posting anything, anywhere on social media.

Screenshot of tweet by Marcel LeJeune, Quoted with permission.

 

I won’t pretend even for a minute that this strategy will solve all of social media’s problems. But I’m hoping that it will go a long way toward making my experience on Twitter a happier one — not one that’s going to drive me to the confessional.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.


Copyright 2019 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS

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About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at CatholicMom.com. Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.

3 Comments

  1. Great job, Barb! This is such a wonderful article, full of practical wisdom and real help for some of the temptations and obstacles we all face in using of social media. Thank you for your thoughtful insights and for sharing your ideas and strategies with all of us!

  2. Love this, Barb! Thank you for taking the time to unpack it. I haven’t been on Twitter much lately (in the last five years, feels like), and I have ditched Facebook completely. I find myself needing to step back often and mindfully, and this is a good reminder of why I stay, to be honest.

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