Bernardo M. Villegas
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Doing Good Through Digital Technology

          As I wrote in a previous column, parents and educators can nurture certain virtues and values among the youth through the proper use of digital technology.  Among these virtues are prudence and temperance in the use of smart phones, tablets, computers and so forth.  Another important virtue is that of sharing good ideas with one’s friends and contacts by being proactive in social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Viber, etc.  Passing to others articles and reports containing sound Christian doctrine—very much needed during these days of great ignorance—can be a way of carrying out the responsibility of every baptized Christian to preach the Gospel (“Woe unto me if I don’t preach  the Gospel” uttered by St. Paul applies to all ordinary Christians).

         This does not mean that everyone should have a blog or web page (which many of us do not have the expertise nor the time to do, without neglecting other obligations). I myself have experienced that putting something worthwhile up on the web requires specific preparation, much time and constancy.  I have left it to others more expert and specialized in maintaining a web page to spread the articles I write.  There are other less time consuming and effective means available to everyone for influencing others with good ideas:  adding a comment about an item that has appeared on the web; writing a message to the author of a specific article; writing a letter expressing one’s opinions on a current issue to the editor of a newspaper; etc.  There should be many of us filling the digital world with these short commentaries or letters so that, as St. Josemaria Escriva advised ordinary Christians, we should “drown evil with an abundance of good.”

         The virtue of prudence should guide us in the use of digital technology.  We should weigh both the benefits and risks.  For example, one has to keep in mind that everything done online (writing an email, making a phone call, sending an SMS, posting a comment, etc.) is never completely private.  There is a possibility that others, not always with an upright intention, can alter or copy the contents, and one never knows who will read it or when, possibly years later.  It is, therefore, advisable especially for the youth who make use of these means to ask for guidance and advice from mentors and spiritual directors so that these uses of digital technology can really contribute to the growth of human and supernatural virtues.  Especially in cases where pornography and similar dangerous occasions can cause moral harm to the user, there is an obligation to remove the occasion of sin since unchastity often leads to moral blindness. Just consider the recent case of a very powerful Hollywood producer whose life has been ruined (among other tragedies befalling him was his wife leaving him) because of lascivious acts against actresses.  If exposing oneself to such occasions is a necessary consequence of the professional work one does, the person concerned would have an obligation to use effective means for rendering the proximate occasion remote. More than ever, spiritual guidance is needed here.

         Then there is the special case of films and TV series.  Technological progress (e.g. Netflix) has facilitated the spread of and access to films and TV series though the Internet.  This has made it easier for people to spend their leisure time productively by having access to good films.  But it has its downside.  It can foster a certain attitude of individualistic consumerism of cinematographic products.  Very often, those who download films indiscriminately in their mobile devices and tablets run the risk of wasting time, isolating themselves from others and even stumbling into inadvisable content.  It may not be a good idea to keep copies of films with the intent of watching them at a later time when one is alone.  Among one of the most effective means of bonding with others, especially with members of our family, is to watch a film in the company of others.  In this way, we contribute to family life or friendship and share moments together, talking about the same theme afterwards, listening to and widening one’s perspective with new points of view, etc.  In fact, I know some young professional people who form film clubs through which they watch well chosen films and then spend time discussing lessons from the plot as well as the artistic values of the films.  Film appreciation is one effective means of growing in cultural formation and intellectual knowledge, especially as regards such classics as “Man for All Seasons”, “Casablanca”, and “Westside Story”.  Needless to say, films may be watched not only for their cultural value but also for pure entertainment as in the case of comedies and suspense thrillers, such as the “Designated Survivor” series.

         Finally, during these times when there is a tendency for educated people to follow the least resistance in the use of their leisure time, it is important to point out that watching movies is neither the only nor the principal way of resting.  There are many other ways that are enriching and uplift the soul, for example, reading a good book or other publications. listening to music, learning to play a musical instrument, visiting museums or engaging in some hobby or another like photography, painting or sculpture, etc.  We should avoid like the plague the danger of our being “robotized” by digital technology by making it a point to engage in leisure activities that maximize the use of our intellectual and artistic talents.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.