I enjoy interacting with other people on Twitter but find that sometimes I get into rather uncharitable arguments with atheists and even with fellow Catholics. I wonder if it is too much of a temptation.
As with all social media, Twitter can be used for good or evil. It is an effective way for people to share information, views and arguments. At its best, it can be a part of Pope Benedict’s vision of co-workers for the truth engaging in evangelisation. At its worst, it can be used as a form of cyber-bullying. People can also bully others by writing nasty letters on paper, so there is nothing new under the sun. It is not the means of communication that is the problem but our use of it.
The immediacy of exchanges on Twitter does mean that it can be tempting to try to be sharp or witty, and sometimes to be unkind to others. On the other hand, people who engage in exchanges such as these generally know the territory and, within reasonable limits, can take the rough with the smooth. We need not be over scrupulous about using a means of communication which offers the opportunity for robust debate, but we should be aware of the temptation to anger, jealousy, and pride, as well as looking out for those who may have got out of their depth and need our support and advice.
In our own examination of conscience on this matter, we simply look, as we always do, at the commandments and the virtues and corresponding vices. The virtue of charity is naturally our primary consideration when communicating with others; and charity includes the love of the truth and its eloquent expression. Although we use them in a different way from Cicero and Demosthenes, we are essentially still trying to use the skills of rhetoric to inform, persuade and motivate. Unlike the ancients, we have a gospel to preach from the Word made flesh. If we can use modern tools of communication to do so, that is a genuine apostolate, and one that has been encouraged several times by Pope Benedict.
Catholic Dilemma 248 published in the Catholic Herald