Twitter and Lent: two possible approaches

In a whimsical moment, I posted the following on Twitter:
Knowing that such brief statements can be radically misunderstood, I thought it would be worth expanding it a little in a medium that does not have a character limit.

Quite a few good Catholics let others know that they are going to give up Twitter for Lent. My opposite statement of intention, though intended to raise a smile among those who feel guilty at continuing to tweet, was certainly not intended as a criticism of the worthy resolution of abstainers. I am quite sincere in this disclaimer and it forms part of my motivation for posting here.

There can be good reasons for giving up Twitter or other social media for Lent. These means of communication can be addictive, as we are daily reminded in articles every day reporting the latest research. Short of real addiction, it can be easy to spend too much time scrolling down the phone, and we might need to spend a bit more time in prayer.

Other temptations can be the desire to have a large following, to be popular, liked, admired, and re-tweeted. And we all know what that vice is called, don't we? If a break from Twitter helps in the battle against pride, that is a good thing for an individual, and, since we are all members one of another, a sacrifice that can be offered "in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world."

This leaves me with the need to give a good reason why I as a priest might not only carry on with Twitter during Lent but actually try to tweet more. My thinking is that if Lent demands of us prayer, fasting and almsgiving, then any use of social media at any time should come under the heading of almsgiving as an act of fraternal charity and therefore something that can be done more or better during Lent.

When we use various means to communicate socially with others, it is a fairly straightforward application of the teaching of Our Lord that we should act charitably in doing so. Giving information to others, commenting on moral ills, answering those who attack the faith, promoting the corporal or spiritual works of mercy that good groups or organisations do, even cracking jokes to try and cheer people up, can all contribute to the good of our neighbour. We can easily forget the over-riding imperatives of the sermon on the mount and Lent is a suitable time to redress this.

Of course there are many ways that we can fail in charity, whether directly by writing something spiteful, or indirectly by using up time that should be spent on other good works. So I both heartily commend the good intentions of those who give up tweeting for Lent, and ask your prayers for all of us who continue, that we do so in humility as good Christian people.

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