I’m a regular on Twitter. It’s a fun place to find quirky community – especially if you’re a tech savvy Catholic. In a smattering of characters, I can lament the lack of convenient daily Mass times or praise the joys of the sacrament of confession. I’ve made many wonderful friends on the platform – friends I hope to meet in person someday.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the Internet – especially social media. My summer job included sitting at a desk for the majority of the day, so I would spend my time clicking through Catholic articles and a multitude of tweets from my “friends” to pass the time. However, at one point in the summer, I became filled with such anxiety that I swore off Twitter for about a day before returning. I took the time to examine why I became so anxious and what we can do about our social media anxieties.
Social Media Anxiety
I don’t identify as a feminist, and as a full disclosure, I don’t believe that “Catholic Feminism” is a real thing. There’s just Catholicism – which honors and respect women (though in a much different way than our secular world does). I don’t suspect that true feminism wills faithful Catholic women to join its ranks because of our opposition to many contemporary institutions such as abortion on demand and artificial birth control. I digress.
However, I’ll say this: A lot of people have a lot to say about what women do or don’t do. This is spectacularly evident in religious circles on the Internet – especially social media.
For example, lately I’ve contemplated my decision to return to graduate school and work towards my masters and doctorate in Applied Linguistics. While I am receiving generous financial aid in scholarship and grants, I am still using some student loan assistance to reach my goal. In the back of my mind, there’s this little nagging voice that says:
“That’s really dumb, you’re not even thinking about your future kids! What if you want to stay home but then you have to work to pay back your debt? Your kids will have to go to daycare and public school and you’ll just have kids that were raised by someone else. You can’t have everything you want.”
Women Shouldn’t Vote and Our Lady Was a Feminist
This nagging voice was especially exaggerated by some things I’ve read on social media in the past few weeks (in my own paraphrase):
- College education is a waste of time for women who want to be homemakers. If something happens to your husband, you can live off of his life insurance.
- Women who want to be truly modest should never own pants because they are made to show off one’s figure.
- Women who don’t marry young aren’t serious about their families and are only concerned about their career.
- Women who take out student loans would rather serve an employer instead of serving their husbands with joy.
- Women shouldn’t vote because they are inherently more liberal – which is why Obama was elected.
- “I want a traditional, Catholic wife who is a perfect 10, acts like a whore, but is actually a virgin who enjoys washing the dishes and massaging my feet. I, on the other hand, am obese and live in my mom’s basement.“
- If you send your kids to public school, you’re damning them to hell.
But, don’t despair, here are some more anxiety-inducing quotes from the other side of the coin:
- You can never, ever tell a woman what to wear to Mass because that forces her to be beholden to men and that’s not cool.
- Jesus was the original feminist and if you’re not also a feminist – you hate women.
- Mary, the mother of Jesus, was anything but meek and mild. She did what she wanted and wasn’t submissive.
- Divorce is a holy thing for women and is often the best choice.
- It’s [current year] and women can do whatever they want to do without the permission of a man – even in the Church.
- Women who believe that they should submit to their husbands only do so because they are “taken care of” and don’t have to think for themselves.
- You’re a total queen who doesn’t need permission from anyone to be who you are (even if “who you are” is destructive to yourself and those around you).
It’s probably no surprise that many faithful Catholic women, myself included, are in a tizzy about who they are and what they want to be. I often find myself in a thought loop that sounds something like this: Are my desires and goals in my life from God or are they a result of our modern culture? Does God really need a female linguist that could just stay at home instead? Or do I not possess a healthy level of girl power to trust my instincts?
Where is my place in the world as a young woman who believes she should submit to her husband but also wants to study the social impact of language at the doctoral level? Where are the voices that say that for young women, a solid college education is worth the time and effort, but may not be for everyone (and that life insurance isn’t a permanent solution)? Where are the women who believe in the value of motherhood but also know its okay to share your gifts outside of the home (and that it won’t ruin your children for life)?
In short, where are the sensible traditionalists?
For me, fighting this cycle of anxiety looked like logging off of social media for a day. It meant talking about my concerns with those far wiser than myself and learning how to employ the “mute” function on Twitter. For you, it may look like deleting your profiles completely and stopping the comparison game. But for all of us, if should mean trusting our gut and ultimately the Holy Spirit – our supreme guide.
Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing with your friends and family via social media and other platforms. I appreciate your support.