Angry Twitter, Angry World

St Jerome

St Jerome, whose feast we celebrate today, has a not entirely unjustified reputation for being a bit of a curmudgeon, though I think myself it has been unfairly exaggerated. I wonder what he would have made of Social Media? There are days when both Twitter and Facebook, for example, are awash with bile and one has to fight down the urge to say, ‘If you really did have the solution to the world’s problems, we’d all be beating a path to your door; the fact that nobody is should tell you something!’ The problem with Social Media, as we all know, is that it is instant. If we had to sit down and ink our words on parchment or chisel them on stone, we might allow ourselves a moment’s reflection. That is why, in my old-fashioned, fuddy-duddy way, I always urge people to pray before they look at their smartphones or log onto the internet. Being conscious of what we are doing is important if we are not to waste our energy and our opportunity.

As you might expect, St Benedict has a lot to say that is pertinent. His chapter on humility, which we are in the process of reading over the next few days, urges restraint in speech and action so that we are fully conscious of what we are about. We don’t drift into holiness, so to say; we have to make an effort. Anger is one of the passions early monastic writers marked out as being a major barrier to holiness of life. It takes over, controls us, places a red mist before the eyes so that we don’t see or hear clearly. St Jerome’s letters to St Augustine often contain passages in which he acknowledges what a struggle he had to contain his anger and check his tendency to sarcasm. He had, of course, the virtue of his fault: he was courageous. The cowardice that masquerades as charity was never for him! The difficulty for us is discerning when our anger is merely anger, and when it is a necessary and righteous means of achieving a good end — and I have to say, if my own experience is anything to go by, anger is usually just anger, with nothing righteous about it at all.

Today, I’d like to suggest two things: that we pray for Gaza, where Jerome lived some of his life; and we pray for all who use Social Media, that we may build up rather than destroy. Angry Twitter, angry world? The connection is not as distant as we might hope. Perhaps we could ask the prayers of St Jerome to help us.

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7 thoughts on “Angry Twitter, Angry World”

  1. A week ago I had the opportunity to visit the tombs of St Jerome and St Paula in The Holy Land which brought these saints to my attention in a totally new way.

  2. As somebody whom has possibly typed something out with an exclamation mark and a few asterisks it is good to actually have the time to reflect on this…..
    Ah that is the crunch, time. My dear husband, since his stroke has had loads of it. Posts beautiful reflective pictures from his morning cycle rides, and intellectual erudite comments on the situation of the world from a Christian Marxist perspective. Whilst the the rest of us bash away at life and use social media as a cathartic outlet.
    The fruits of the Spirit do not always show when that emerges, and I have best show restrain by simply not posting. I remember when this government were elected we knew that my husband’s job was on the line, and he took two weeks off with stress, as a lot of his work in an inner city working with deprived and kids with mental health issues, and getting their voice heard, would be annihilated. We made a conscious decision not to post then.
    BUT (whoops capital means shout) Jesus did get angry, I think it is wisdom to know when to use it.

  3. ‘The cowardice that masquerades as charity was never for him! ‘ What a fabulous sentence, but this article poses a bit of a conundrum for me. I do believe there is such a thing as righteous anger, but I agree with you, anger is usually just anger when someone has encroached upon our boundaries.
    It is a barrier to holiness. Perhaps we have to become holy before we are ready to exhibit righteous anger. Thank you, this has been rather instructive.

  4. I think anger online can have a much bigger effect than we often realise – what can feel like harmless venting to the poster may strike a much more serious blow than we realise.

    I try to avoid commenting on what other people post on Twitter in a negative way – sometimes it takes a lot of self control if someone posts something I think it blatantly nonsense. Only twice have I indulged in posts along the “I wish people wouldn’t …” variety, listing pet peeves of mine. Both times, someone who has recently posted in that way on my timeline has responded by apologising and offereing an explanation, which has made me feel very small – who am I to regulate their use of Twitter?

    Of course righteous anger exists, but I’m not convinced the best medium for expressing it is Twitter, because we can’t explain the source of our anger properly, and we’re just left with the expression of anger – the angry equivalent of the Cheshire Cat’s smile!

  5. I like your idea of praying to St. Jerome for interacting on social media. I will definitely try it! As someone who makes my living overseeing the social media for my work (which is for the Church, BTW), I often find myself stopping and praying, not to prevent me from responding in anger, but as a shield for what I see online. I find a quick prayer, with closed eyes, to Our Lady helps me to “re-set” and feel strengthened to keep wading out into the abyss of the internet. It is very challenging to have to bear witness to all the anger and sin that is so prevalent online. I combat this in two ways: By being a witness to Christ in my online work and by keeping my home media (internet/TV) free. It provides a balance.
    Sorry to blather on. God bless you and thank you for your vocation.
    Sincerely,
    Dana

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