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Lord and master of the Internet

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
May 6, 2014

THIS is what we ought to be. As much as possible we should avoid becoming slaves of the Internet, helplessly dependent on it, totally at its mercy, already losing effective dominion over our instincts, passions and our other weaknesses that this new technology can mindlessly if sweetly stimulate all the way to our destruction.

This is now a major concern, since even a cursory look around can yield abundant pieces of evidence of men and women, boys and girls, young and old, healthy and sick, completely blown away by the dizzying freefall of its deceptive beauty and usefulness.

One can see a sharp rise of couch potatoes, tied to laziness, idleness and complacency, swallowed up in a sinkhole of inanities and trivialities, willing victims of the urges of pride and vanity, self-seeking and self-assertion, lust and greed.

There is some kind of addiction afflicting many of the people. Many are practically defenceless and clueless to the tricks and traps of the Internet. In its wake are left the debris of disorder, anguish, frustrations, conflicts, etc.

To be sure, this new technology gives us a lot of advantages. For these, we have to be very thankful. But we should not forget that these good things always come with a price, and in fact, a high price, because if misused and abused, they can spoil us into a rotten pulp much more than what illicit drugs can cause. It can be a Trojan horse.

The harm inflicted by its misuse is of the spiritual type, not just of the body. And if we believe that the spirit is the one that in the end gives life to the body, so once it is impaired if not rendered practically dead, then the body actually suffers tremendously, irrespective of how good and healthy it may look based on the appearance alone.

We have to ring the alarm and warn everyone of this present and clear danger. More than this, we have to set about teaching and helping everyone on how to use the Internet properly.

I believe this is an issue that cannot be handled by giving out platitudes alone or occasional reminders, etc. It has to be taken like the bull by the horns. We should not take it for granted, or lightly. This is a very serious issue that affects all of us irrespective of our political colors or socio-cultural conditions.

The aim is to equip everyone adequately by clarifying the true nature of freedom and how it can be lived properly with respect to the use of the Internet. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful,” St. Paul warns. (1 Cor 6,12) “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything.”

Alas, not many realize the wisdom of this truth of faith. For many, freedom is, as they say, what comes naturally, that is, what their passions, feelings, curiosities, etc., urge them.

We need to disabuse ourselves of this false and dangerous understanding of freedom. More than that, we need to acquire the appropriate attitude and skills to live the true nature of freedom and its consequences.

A basic requirement for this is faith in God that is nourished through prayer, sacrifice or self-discipline, study of the doctrine of our faith, especially with respect to morality, recourse to the sacraments which are the ordinary channels of God’s grace, lifelong development of virtues, and the art of spiritual or interior struggle and warfare.

There’s always a great and indispensable need for us to grow and mature spiritually. Now is the time to realize more deeply that this particular need has to be attended to first of all and always, and never to be sacrificed in exchange of some immediate, practical but very perishable benefits that the Internet and other worldly things can give us.

We need to develop our spiritual or interior life, nourishing it always with the truths of our faith and the many and endless acts of hope and charity. Only in this way can we have dominion and mastery over our earthly affairs.

For some practical guidelines, it might be helpful to determine and limit our time of going to the Internet. Let’s avoid going to it at the instance of our whims. Definitely, it should be made to compete with our time for meals, family gatherings, work, and especially our prayers and other spiritual activities.

We need to practice temperance, restraint and moderation always. We have to keep close guarding of our senses, both the external and internal.