Applied Moral Theology is when you take the precepts of moral theology and begin to see how those ideas apply to the modern world.
What does moral theology have to do with social media like the internet, twitter, facebook, email, texting, phone calls, etc.? A LOT.
We know that we are to place God first in our lives. We also know that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. How does that look in practice? What has that to do with social media?
First, putting God first means quiet times to pray, and Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. If you add daily Mass to your schedule, this too is an important practice, as is going to Adoration. ALL these times are connected to a large degree to silence and a focus of our attention away from the things of this world and toward those things of God so we may be renewed and be the salt and light in the world.
Social Media interferes with that silence and focus if we do not control it. So often we allow the cell phone in our pocket to dictate where our attention goes. It could even be considered a sin of omission to fail to turn off the cell phone when it is proper to do so!
We are called by God to spend time in silence with Him. If we fail to turn off the cell phones what we are saying is that all those outside interruptions that come from our social media are MORE IMPORTANT than GOD. How is this not a sin of some degree? To place the twitter feed higher than listening to the Liturgy of the Word is a grave and serious matter. God makes many demands on us. How we respond shapes who we become and do you really want to be a person whose god is the cell phone and not GOD?
Loving our neighbor as ourselves includes things like avoiding doing that which endangers our neighbor’s life. We are expected to conduct our lives in such a way as to safeguard the life and well-being of all those persons around us to the very best of our ability. TEXTING while driving is KNOWN to increase accidents in number as well as severity. To TEXT while driving is to willfully put your connections via social media OVER the lives of the people on the road around you. You willfully endanger other lives which is a sin when you text and drive.
Our beloved holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has suggested that social media needs to learn to be silent sometimes. I think he misunderstood how social media works (it isn’t sentient so cannot alter) but his meaning is clear. Social Media must not be allowed to prevent the silence we each need for moments of prayer. Here is his excellent message for World Day of Social Communications. His exhortations to use the new media have been clear as are the warnings to keep in control of our use of it.
WE are responsible for setting boundaries and limits on the social media in our own lives. I for one turn my phone off, or set it to silence when I need time. I walk away from my computer at set times and anything I miss is waiting when I get back. We are able to control how social media impacts or lives. We are capable of discipline that limits its power over our moments and silences it when needed. We must control our use of social media rather than permitting the social media to control US.
It is immoral to allow social media to dictate our actions with its beeps and alarms. Our human dignity requires we set limits on the social media inputs in our lives. WE decide, we limit, we use this thing called social media. It is a good thing to have boundaries for this technology and a sin to let the technology control our actions.
Just a short few thoughts on Applied Moral Theology.