How To Give the Internet a Soul

by Becca DeMarais
Originally Published August 26th, 2015

We have the world at our fingertips. 

With just a username and a password we can join any social media platform and instantly be connected to people, news, and events from around the world. 

We are more connected and closer to each other than ever before. Pope Francis says the Internet gives us the chance to encounter one another and grow in unity. “This is something truly good,” he said. “A gift from God.” Thank you for the Internet! 

Isn’t it amazing to get breaking news from across the globe, to join in worldwide discussions by following specific hashtags, and stay instantly connected to family and friends far away? That’s the bright side. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side, too, full of complaining, negativity, insults, and violent aggression behind people’s opinions, political and religious views.

I’m guilty. It’s just so easy to quickly write up a message of 140 characters about how much I dislike that person who took my parking spot (I mean, come on, there are a thousand other ones!) and then tweet it out.  

But because we live in this golden era of technology, and because we are Christian, and because so much good can come from using social media well, I want to offer some practical ways to be amazing virtual witnesses. 

Post Nice Things

Straight forward. Obviously that tweet about the person taking my parking spot was not a kind thing to say. There’s really no need to use social media for negativity.

Don’t Bombard People

It’s easy as Christians to want to spread the Gospel by blowing up your friends’ newsfeeds with one-sided religious articles. Pope Francis said: “Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others ‘by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence’ (Benedict XVI).” Which leads me to my next point.

Be Patient and Listen

If we practice patience and take the time to listen to others, we are able to work toward a better understanding of one another. People are more likely to share openly and express themselves fully if they know they are not being merely tolerated.

Have a Real Dialogue

What does it mean to dialogue? “To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective” (Pope Francis). What does it not mean to dialogue? “Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute” (the Pope, again).

Give it a Soul

This is more a summary of the previous points. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said it best when he called us to “give a soul to the Internet.” The digital world is not just a bunch of connecting wires but people. There are actual human begins, children of God, sitting on the other side of the computer screen. Pretend like you are talking to them face-to-face.

I'm still working on being a witness not only online but offline, too. With the world at our fingertips, I keep reminding myself of this awesome opportunity we have to draw people toward us and open the doors for true dialogue about the faith.