I love using social media. It is the best way for me to connect to the world and keep in touch with those I love and care for. Still, social media are streams of unfiltered information and emotion. Thus, I need some kind of filter to help me with navigating social media. Unbeknown to me, there were two human beings who walked on Earth long ago that might have the key to guide me on using social media.
Socrates and the Triple Test
In ancient Greece, Socrates was visited by an acquaintance who was eager to share some juicy gossip that he’d just heard about a friend of theirs.
Before the man spoke, Socrates asked, “Are you absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?”
The man shook his head.“No, I actually just heard about it, and …”
Socrates cut him off. “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then. Is what you want to say something good or kind?”
Again, the man shook his head.“No! Actually, just the opposite. You see …”
Socrates lifted his hand to stop the man from speaking. “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind. One last question. Is this information useful or necessary to me?”
A little defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”
“Well, then,” Socrates said, turning on his heel.“If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say anything at all.”
One of the main reasons for me to go on social media is to find somethings that please my appetite. It is hard to turn away from those cute pet clips or the amazing cake that somebody made from scratch. Still, mixing with those mundane clips are political, controversial, and manipulative posts and videos that also feed my emotions and inflate my ego. Therefore, before I read something on social media, I need to remind myself of these three filters: Truth, Kind, and Usefulness.
- Is the news true or fake, or just ambivalent? If there is no clear answer then I will refrain from making any judgment.
- Is the news kind to me and others and promotes unity, or does it bring the message of hate and division? If what I read is only hatred and resentment, what good does it do to me? It will sink me further down to the hole of isolation and depression.
- Is the news useful or necessary, or does it just for me to kill time, make me feel righteous, and inflate my egocentric and narcissistic behaviors? I think the world is broken enough and I don’t need to contribute more to that.
Also, not just receiving the news, with social media, I now have the power to voice my opinion through posts and comments. Yet, without a filter, my words can cause more harm than good.
In the Spiritual Exercises (a 30-day silent retreat program for a person to deepen his/her relationship with God), Ignatius asked the retreatants to look deeply into one’s inner self and reflect on three questions: 1
What have I done for Christ?
What am I doing for Christ?
What shall I do for Christ?
I admit that many of my posts came from a state of compulsiveness and reactiveness. What I could not realize at the time was how much damage it would cause to those who read my post.
Thus, when I take a moment to filter my thoughts and behaviors with those three questions, I can see the larger scope of reality and how my post would fit into it.
- I ask myself how and why I came up with the post.
- I ask myself about the content of my post, whether it is true, kind, and useful for others.
- I ask myself what effect my post would bring to those who read it.
Nowadays, with social media, I can easily “hurt” people with my reactive posts, my empty words, and my harmful hidden motives. The scary fact is that I might not even be aware of the damage that I cause to others. In the end, I become a part of the endless cycle of being victims and culprits, and the way to get out of that cycle is to approach it with reason, mercy, and compassion.
In this Holy Week, I remember Jesus’s words on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I ask for forgiveness, for the damage that I have caused unknowingly, and I forgive those who have damaged me with their words and actions.
- For those who don’t share the same belief, you can replace “Christ” with other figures like “for the common good,” “for the greater reality,” “for the absolute being,” or simply asking yourself “what have I done?” “what am I doing?” and “what shall I do?” ↩