By Father Joe Waters

Is it a sin to post hurtful comments on social media?

I see so much hatred and division on social media as people make comments that insult and demean others. How should I deal with this?

Social media can be an instrument of good and have redeeming value. However, like all cultural expressions, social media needs taming. By practicing civility and focusing on the common good, we can curb negativity on this relatively new vehicle of communication. Unfortunately for many, social media provides the illusion of anonymity and permits them be unthinking and irresponsible when posting.

Each of us can be influencers on social media by following St. Paul's injunction: “Say only the good things others need to hear!” In short, like every other medium of expression, we need to ensure that we are polite, truthful, and charitable. We should take special care to be civil when we disagree with someone. One should ask: Is the comment or image to which I will respond worthy of a response? Can I respond in a wholesome manner and not be drawn into negativity? Is this comment best left alone? If I am going to respond, can I find ways to deescalate negativity and promote civility.

Yes, things we post on social media can be sinful. That is why one wants to focus on practicing the virtue of prudence when messaging. If we police ourselves, we can influence others.

Father Joe Waters is Judicial Vicar and Censor Librorum of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

If you have a question you would like us to consider for this series, email communicate@dosp.org.