Online social media can provide value by bringing people together around certain ideas or helping to inform people about events that build community, said Jesuit Father Christopher Collins, vice president for mission at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
But online communication can also make it difficult to maintain human, loving interactions, he said.
The ability to be anonymous and the lack of face-to-face interpersonal communication can contribute to uncharitable and mean-spirited exchanges, Fr Collins said, with some people “just wanting to conquer or humiliate the other”.
Part of the challenge, he said, “is simply that there is no real human person in front of us.”
Father Collins recently joined “Practicing Catholic” host Patrick Conley to discuss how people can engage with others in charitable ways on social media.
Try to find what’s good in an exchange and where the other person is coming from, he said, “even if it’s a little ‘off’.”
“Find out what’s good and start building from there, where we have a place of common sensibility, and then maybe some of the other things can be clarified,” he said.
God created people for unity with each other and with Him, Fr. Collins said. “And if we’re still looking for where the difference is, or where the problem is, well, that’s all we’ll find too,” he said.
Listening to someone’s good and building from there is an act of holiness, he said, “to seek where there is unity, for where there is unity there is where the presence of God is, in the end”.
Conley asked Father Collins how to promote beauty, truth and goodness on social media, especially through more visual social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Calling these platforms a bit out of his element, Father Collins nevertheless suggested that the ultimate beauty to encounter is God in the created world, “away from the screen”.
During the interview, Conley asked Father Collins for specific advice about a hypothetical situation, such as a friend online posting something patently untrue about a Catholic teaching. To hear Father Collins’ response and to hear the full interview, listen to this episode of “Practicing Catholic,” which begins at 9 p.m. March 11 on Relevant Radio 1330 AM and also airs at 1 p.m. March 12. and at 2 p.m. on March 13.
Produced by Relevant Radio and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the latest broadcast also includes interviews with Father Spencer Howe and Sam Backman of Holy Cross in Minneapolis, who outline the history of the 40 Hour Devotional and an upcoming opportunity to participate this Lent; and Dr. Jack Lane, consultant in neuroradiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and Roland Millare, Ph.D., program vice president and director of Shepherd’s Heart for the Houston-based St. John Paul II Foundation, who describe how Catholic Health care professionals strive to provide ethical care and advice.
Listen to all the interviews after they air on
Category: Practicing Catholic