Social media has become a great tool for communication and idea-sharing. However, like anything else, if it is used inappropriately, it can easily become a vice and ruin your relationship with God and your friends and family.
It's important to use social media with good intentions and be aware of what we need to avoid lest we fall into sin or lead others into sin through our social media interactions.
Using the Guide for Examination of Conscience for Confession of Sins by St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church as an example, here is a simple
Examination of Conscience for Social Media Users
You can use this as a guide to keep you on the right track when using social media or correct yourself when needed and get back on track when you derail.
First Commandment: I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before Me. (Ex 20:2,3)
1. When I wake up in the morning, is my first thought about giving thanks to God for another day or do I immediately think about checking for new updates on my social media accounts and email?
2. During moments of quiet in my day, do I turn to God in prayerful silence or do I grab my phone and scan for anything new and interesting in my newsfeeds thinking I can always pray later?
3. Do I rely on prayer to hear God’s guiding Voice in my life or do I turn to social media, desperately hoping He will somehow spell out His Will for me in the next blog post, tweet, or Facebook status update?
Second Commandment: You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain. (Ex 20:7)
1. Do I ever use God’s name casually and disrespectfully in online conversations?
2. Do I use foul language unnecessarily or in a derogatory way about God or others?
3. Do I praise and thank God for all the blessings in my life or do I use social media to complain and rant about everything God has not done for me?
Third Commandment: Remember that you keep holy the Sabbath Day. (Ex 20:8)
1. On Sunday, do I focus on preparing myself and my family for celebrating the Lord’s Day or do I spend unnecessary time online instead?
2. While at Mass, am I listening, participating, and allowing God to pull me deeper into the Paschal Mystery or do I only think about my next blog post, Facebook status update, or how I’m going to increase my Twitter followers?
3. Have I used social media on my mobile device during the celebration of the Eucharist?
Fourth Commandment: Honor your father and your mother. (Ex 20:12)
1. Do I use my online interactions to slander, disrespect, or dishonor any of my family members, including my spouse and children?
2. Do I use social media to bring honor to the Jesus and His teachings and the traditions passed onto us through the ministry of His Church?
3. When I am with my family, am I fully present or do I get distracted by using social media instead of giving them my full attention?
Fifth Commandment: You shall not kill. (Ex 20:13)
1. Do I encourage, incite, or extol violence through my online conversations?
2. Do I use social media to “kill” others’ reputations, honor, or dignity by spreading gossip or posting or sharing slanderous or mocking comments about others, including celebrities, politicians, or other public figures?
3. Do I use social media to build relationships or kill them by failing to consider the feelings and thoughts of others before I post, share, or make a public comment on a post?
Sixth and Ninth Commandments: You shall not commit adultery." (Ex 20:14) "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. (Ex 20:17)
1. Do I negatively compare or complain about my spouse publicly or privately in my online conversations?
2. Do I read about my friends’ spouses and wish my spouse was more like him or her?
3. Do I feel jealous or envious when looking at pictures friends have shared of themselves, their friends, their spouse, their children or family?
Seventh and Tenth Commandments: You shall not steal." (Ex 20:15) "You shall not covet your neighbor's goods. (Ex 20:17)
1. Do I respect copyright laws for others’ published works and include sources when necessary and available or have I used someone else’s images, words, or ideas as my own?
2. Do I see others’ images or writing and want it for my own?
3. Do I feel jealous when friends’ share pictures and updates about recent purchases or possessions, their triumphs, joys, or accomplishments instead of expressing genuine happiness and thanksgiving for them?
Eight Commandment: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Ex 20:16)
1. Have I used social media to lie about my identity or present a false representation of who I really am?
2. Do I misrepresent, take out of context, inflate, or otherwise misconstrue others’ words or information via social media for my own benefit and recognition.
3. Have I failed to respect others’ privacy by sharing information that isn’t mine to share or by sharing pictures of them online without their permission?
Do I use social media to destroy friendships, seek out revenge, or make myself look better than others?
If I have used social media in a hurtful way towards others, have I humbly acknowledged this, sought out their forgiveness after a sincere apology, and tried my best to amend my social media use?