Every person enters marriage with challenges to overcome. One of mine has been spending too much time on social media. Last week, I blocked LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and a click-bait news site. I had to take responsibility for social media’s oversized presence in my life.
But it only lasted a couple of days.
Then our priest let me have it in his Sunday homily. He noted people tend to become very interested in something … or to lose interest quickly. He could quickly teach someone three chords on a guitar, but someone who didn’t learn more would get bored fast. Only someone interested enough to improve his or her skills would keep playing.
That applies to Catholics, he explained. Getting baptized, receiving First Holy Communion, going to Mass on Sundays — these are all the basic chords. Today’s Catholics who engage in these important aspects of our faith are like the rich young man who told Jesus that he follows the Commandments.
That man passionately wanted to do more than play basic chords. Jesus told him how to get what he wanted: Sell what he had and give it all to the poor to get “treasure in Heaven.” That young man “went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
The young man and I have several things in common. He seems to have a good life, like I have a very good marriage. He wants to do right by God as I desire to do right by God and my family. But just as the young man declined to give away his wealth and earn “treasure in Heaven,” I have declined to give away Facebook and YouTube to earn the treasure on earth of better serving my wife and child.
I used to use YouTube and Facebook in their proper spheres. YouTube was a way to relax and catch up on TV shows and movies. Facebook helped me with my then-burgeoning journalism career as well as to engage in (I hope) constructive discussions on politics, culture and religion.
But as I settled into a new job and a new housing arrangement in 2010, I used Facebook and YouTube as “boredom” fixers. By early 2011, I was using YouTube for as much as three hours per day.
I’ve improved. But just as with any other flaw or foible, what seems a small problem when you do when single is magnified when your first goal is someone else’s happiness. Earlier this month, I put a Facebook discussion ahead of serving my family. Thankfully, God held me accountable both internally and to my wife. I apologized to her and she immediately forgave me.
The good thing is that while the social media blocking didn’t last, my use of it has been dramatically reduced. Christ didn’t tell the rich young man to never again have money, and I’m not being told to never use social media. He just wanted the young man to put people and God ahead of the wealth.
I want my work to benefit the world. Maybe my journalism will reach the same number of readers without my social media efforts. Perhaps through not being on social media, my brain will be able to create higher-quality material that will get to fewer people but have a greater impact. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll just focus on the writing instead of external goals.
But the point is that God wants me to be able to give it up, the way Jesus wanted the rich young man to give up all his wealth. He wants me to let go of something that keeps me from Him, and from the people He’s given me to love and care for most.
And regarding YouTube — well, I suspect my life will be complete without the latest issue of Avengers or Superman. And a lot better.