Pope Francis ushered in Lent by chastising the way we interact with each other on social media. During his Ash Wednesday address in St. Peter’s Square, the pope claimed it was difficult to find silence necessary to communicate with God these days. He encouraged the world’s Catholics to “give up useless words, chatter, rumors, gossip, and talk” and went even further, suggesting turning off your phone altogether.
Modern Lent — The 40-day religious fast has evolved from simple food deprivation to denying oneself decadent treats and behaviors. This period of time before Easter is also meant to be one of reflection, repentance, and charity (though many people just give up Hot Cheetos and call it a day). In his address, known as the General Audience, the pope drew special focus to how we behave online.
“We live in an atmosphere polluted by too much verbal violence, too many offensive and harmful words, which are amplified by the internet,” he said, according to Reuters. “Today, people insult each other as if they were saying ‘Good Day.’”
Between phones and television, the pope would prefer if you didn’t pay attention to any screens at all. He thinks all this “chatter” not only hinders people’s relationship with God, but with other people as well. “How many poor and old people live near us in silence, marginalized and discarded,” he said, according to Vatican News.
Whatever you may feel about religion, the pope has a point. We already know our relationships with our phones isn’t healthy, as evidenced by digital wellbeing apps and social media cleanses. Maybe you don’t want to talk to some deity, but it couldn’t hurt to be more present to the people in your day-to-day life, if only for a few weeks.