How "Catholic" should you be online?

Can you be too Catholic? Is there an appropriate time and place to be so very Catholic? Are there times when you need to cool it with all that Catholic stuff? Especially when interacting with others online?

Are you ever afraid of offending somebody with your “orthodox” Catholicism?

If you have any kind of online profile, whether it’s on your own blog or a simple Facebook account, you may have asked yourself at some point, “How Catholic should I be?”

Should I share this link about my faith? Should I take down the bloody, gory picture of the crucified Jesus I put up as my profile picture? Is it a bit much when I post a prayer as my status message?

These are all natural questions. And we are all still learning the proper etiquette and what makes for effective evangelism online. The one hard and fast rule that you can take to your online bank is that there are no hard and fast rules on the untamed digital continent. There are best practices. But each one must be uniquely applied and evaluated by the fluid standards of an ever-changing platform.

Back to the original question. How Catholic should you be online? It’s really the wrong question.

Being Catholic is who we are. Not just how we express ourselves. We are to always and everywhere be 100% Catholic and 100% faithful to the Church. No exceptions and no compromises. That’s an easy answer.

I think the real question at the heart of these issues is: How do we share our faith genuinely and effectively online?

I find there are 3 major issues Catholics often struggle with when sharing their faith online:

1) We struggle with being genuine. If we are to be 100% Catholic, that means admitting we aren’t perfect. Our Church may have all the answers, but, as individuals, we certainly do not. Don’t pretend to. We are scared that if we admit our weakness that we are somehow admitting a weakness in our Church. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The humility that comes with being 100% Catholic is one of the most powerful ways to share your faith. Even if that is not immediately evident.

2) We often only think about what we’re saying, not how others may be hearing it. With many of the things we share online, we can not control who sees them, when they see them, the mood they’re in when they read them, etc.  Additionally, by its very nature, online communication is less personable and deaf to many of the nuances of language. We must take all of this into account.

3) Sometimes we (me included) pretend we are courageously standing up for the Truth, when it’s actually just a lame, transparent mask of our own pride. Deep down, unfortunately, our real motivation for sharing is often that we just want to make sure others know that they are wrong and that we are right. But that’s sinful, and it’s not being Catholic at all. It probably gets a few positive responses from people who already agree with us, while it pushes many others outside of the Church even further away.

You know the guy who stands on the street corner outside of the bar and loudly condemns to hell everyone who walks in for a drink? Don’t be that guy. Most of the things people clumsily call “being too Catholic” online are really just digital manifestations of that guy hiding behind an internet connection. Being 100% Catholic is about walking the walk, not just talking it. Unfortunately, social media is far more focused on the talking than the walking. Don’t fall into that trap.

Evangelism is about relationships. Don’t use your online platform (be it large or small) as only a megaphone (you’ll soon find nobody listening). Use it to listen, share and to build genuine relationships. That is a key ingredient of effective evangelism. It’s about truth and charity. If you have not Love, you are but a clanging cymbal. Clanging cymbals are not Catholic at all.

The goal is not just to speak the truth. It’s to lovingly convince others of it. That can mean all kinds of different things and take all kinds of different forms for different kinds of people and walks of life - especially in these emerging media. But if you can keep your true goals and motivations in check, it will be a lot easier to discern the unique opportunities God is providing for you to share your faith online.

Be genuine. Love boldly. Be 100% Catholic.

What are some guidelines you use when sharing your faith online?