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What are we doing on social media??
In middle school, I got a Facebook account. Soon after, I was on Instagram and Pinterest.
Then came Twitter. Did your social presence grow in a similar fashion?
In high school, I realized that Twitter was a complete time suck. So, I deleted it. Instead of scrolling through Twitter until I fell asleep, I began praying before bed each night. (Which was definitely a step in the right direction!)
After converting to Catholicism in college, I promised Our Lord I would pray even more. I learned of Our Lady of Fatima’s message that we should pray the rosary every day to fight the spiritual battle for our souls.
I prayed three 54-day novenas in a row and experienced incredible intercession from Our Lady.
But then, I stopped praying the rosary. I stopped praying before bed. I told myself, “God will understand, I just don’t have as much time as I once did.”
How did I convince myself of this lie? Why do we make excuses for our overconsumption of social media?
The Secular Manipulation of Our Lives
For starters, it’s what they want you to think.
I know…it sounds like a conspiracy theory. But the truth is actually pretty scary.
I just watched Netflix’s “The Social Dilemma” documentary and man oh man did it inspire and horrify me. (I know Netflix is part of the problem too, but bear with me.)
Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, Pinterest, YouTube, et al. are secular, commercial organizations. Their main commodity? Users’ attention.
Social media sites want to pass your time without you noticing. And then you look at your iPhone clock and see: “I don’t have time for a rosary before work!”
Chew on these quotes from the documentary for a second:
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you’re the product.”
“It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in our own behaviour and perception that is the product.”
Pretty creepy, right?
The fact of the matter is, social media websites utilize ad-based revenue structures to grab users’ attention through whatever means possible and then convert that attention to click-throughs and on-platform purchasing/subscriptions.
As a part-time social media manager, I’ve learned quite a bit about how this works over the past couple of months. I’ve always been concerned about the unethical use of social media. But this documentary brought a new concern to light.
The people who are controlling our attention and purchasing habits are mostly non-Catholics. This means they are not bound to the reality that all humans must be treated justly.
There’s no consequence for unethical business practices when you don’t believe in a higher power and the government isn’t regulating your decisions.
I realized today that I am allowing this complex and corrupt system to dominate my social interactions.
Humor me for a second:
When was the last time you had a phoneless dinner?
“But Grace!” you say. “I have important notifications I’m waiting on 24 hours a day.”
Really? I mean if you really do, have you considered making the notification tone for those super important messages different than, say, the ‘you’ve got mail’ chime?
Or are we (I’m the absolute worst about this) really just making excuses to have our phone nearby in case of a lull in the conversation or an uncomfortable topic being brought up?
If we allow these ‘social’ apps (and by extension, these secular companies) to control our behaviors at the dinner table, we are letting them interrupt our most intimate and important relationships.
We’re inviting the vampire into our home. (Legend has it, a vampire cannot enter your house unless invited. Here is a topical meme.)
Not only do these apps vie for our oh-so-valuable ($$$) attention they also prey on our likes and dislikes to hold us hostage on the platform itself.
The longer we stay on a platform + the more ads they can feed us = the more money they’ll make.
Last week, I spent an average of 4 hours and 22 minutes on my phone.
Let’s break that down into two nice little tables:
|App||Total Time Per Week||Daily avg|
|8 hours 40 minutes||1 hour 14 minutes|
|Safari||5 hours 58 minutes||51 minutes|
|3 hours 13 minutes||27 minutes|
|37 minutes||5 minutes|
|YouTube||33 minutes (+2 hours on my laptop/TV)||–|
Approximated time per week I spend on secular, (possibly manipulative) social media sites:
21 hours 15 minutes. That’s almost an ENTIRE DAY of scrolling. Yikes.
|App||Total Time||Daily avg|
|Google Maps||1 hour 33 minutes||13 minutes|
|Messages||1 hour 26 minutes||12 minutes|
|Notes||1 hour 18 minutes||11 minutes|
|Gmail||48 minutes||6 minutes|
I’m not as worried about these numbers because I mostly need this utility stuff. Approximate time spent on internal utilities per week: 5 hours.
You should definitely try this little screen-time-breakdown experiment!
I learned the truth about my own consumption.
The truth is, I do have time to pray the rosary daily. And make a holy hour. And go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every day. And pray before bed. And pray the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
But I make excuses and choose this world instead.
A Better Way: Carlo Acutis’ Discipline
This documentary came out very close to the beautification date of the Venerable Carlo Acutis (October 10th, 2020).
If you have not yet heard of this magnificent servant of God, he is hailed by most news sources as a “computer geek” and lover of video games.
But I don’t think he fits the modern definition of “gamer.” According to many of the articles written about his life, he penitentially restricted himself to only 1 hour of video games per week.
1 hour! He enjoyed video games, but was incredibly disciplined in his technological consumption. (Remember, I spent 21 hours on social media last week.)
Instead of constantly ingesting social media or video games, Carlo devoted his technological savvy to creating a website on which he cataloged all of the Eucharistic miracles of the world.
“He started the project when he was 11 years old and wrote at the time, ‘The more Eucharist we receive, the more we will become like Jesus, so that on this earth we will have a foretaste of Heaven.’” 
I think Carlo is going to be an incredible intercessor for our time. He witnessed firsthand the addiction and corruption of media outlets and social websites.
Instead of contributing to the secular noise, he dedicated himself to the Eucharist and sharing the Catholic faith.
I want to follow his example in my life and on my own little blog.
I’ve done a ton of research for work on what gets bloggers more followers on social media and on how to use ads/email marketing for sharing offers. Without this recent epiphany, I would have continued into the social media spiral of suck:
You have to have followers to be successful. Your message means nothing if nobody is reading it. You need to earn money to be happy.
Many of the hours I’ve spent on Instagram last week were dedicated to researching how popular Instagram influencers write their captions and pose their pictures.
(Caleb can tell you) I’ve been tirelessly listening to marketing podcasts so I can be 110% ready to launch my blog and be successful. But that is an absolute waste of time.
To be clear, the stuff that social media marketers and CEOs spout at you and ‘suggest’ you do to be successful (online or offline) is all a load of crap!
In my opinion, using the attention extraction method (clickbaity, meaningless posts) to gain popularity is unethical. It’s vain. Churning out meaningless content because the algorithm rewards you for it or because you want likes & follows is bogus, man.
In fact, most of the Catholic bloggers I follow post beautiful things that stand out to them or verses that inspired them while reading scripture. They aren’t batching meaningless content.
There’s a real beauty in their kind of spontaneous posting. And that’s what all folks on social media used to do and should do! We used to post status updates about our families and dogs. I really want to get back to that.
Even though I could spend 15 hours engaging with social media users trying to gain more followers, I’d rather work on my own projects and draw people that way.
If God wants people to hear my message, He’ll send them to the blog.
It’s sad to think that I’d barely just begun blogging, but I was already wrapped up in the worry of what other people might think.
Mindful Social Media Sharing and Use
I will follow Carlo’s holy example. Our Lord is the truth and I can’t let myself be sucked into the social media trap that followers and likes actually matter.
From now on, I’m going to be mindful of my social media use. And I hope you will be too!
When I use social media, it will only be for this ministry or genuinely keeping up with my family and friends.
I’m also done ‘researching’ how to market on social media. (This doesn’t mean I’ll completely stop learning online, there are many worthwhile, edifying resources out there!)
I’ll just be discerning in my usage. (No more bringing my phone with me to the bathroom!😂)
I don’t know if you’ve also been struggling with this. I’d wager that dedicating more time to social media than to God is a pretty common issue.
Here are the steps I am taking (starting TODAY) to detox from social media and reorient myself to heaven:
1. I will put my social media apps behind a barrier.
After I type the final period on this post, I’m going to move Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest onto the third page of my iPhone. I’m also naming the folder “Hail Mary” to remind myself not to get sucked into social (as well as get an extra Hail Mary in!)
Why: I need to limit my social media consumption.
2. Put my phone away in the evenings (Esp at meals, get-togethers).
Leave phone in kitchen overnight–buy a regular alarm clock.
Why: I need to stop using my phone as a crutch in social situations. I want to appreciate and nurture relationships with family and strangers.
Someday, I aspire to downgrade to a home phone line and a flip phone for a cell.
3. Immediate morning rosary & morning prayers.
Why: I need to stop making excuses. If I do it first thing, I give my waking moments to God instead of the world. Starting the day off right!
4. Replace that social media time with prayer time.
Probably the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary at 9 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m., 5, and 9.
Let me know if you are going to take any (or all!) of these steps in devotion to God.
If you’d like, I created a wallpaper you can use on your phone to remind you of these goals!