During the first day of the International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care in Crete (DMOPC18), the renowned theologian Jean-Claude Larchet said that during the fast seasons Christians ought to reduce their activity on social platforms.
Larchet said that social networks ‘have invaded the lives of contemporary people and especially of today’s youth.’
He said that there is a social pressure to compliance to social media, since ‘one is almost obliged to have so as not to be excluded from various social, administrative or economic groups or circles.’
The addiction to social media, Larchet said, ‘often remains unperceived in less serious cases, since habit is capable of making what is not normal appear to be so.’
‘For most users, the use has become abusive,’ he noted Monday, June 18.
He cautioned that ‘in real life, people spend far less time visiting Orthodox sites than they do others, and many young Orthodox remain completely oblivious to them.’
Jean-Claude Larchet also referred to his newly-published book entitled ‘Malades des nouveaux medias’, which has been translated into Romanian and is currently being translated into English under the title ‘Addicts of Modern Media’.
In his presentation, Larchet noted that the Orthodox Church has established rules of limitation and abstinence for the fasting periods concerning the consumption of food and sexual activity, in order to allow the Christians’ mind to control the bodily and psychic impulses.
The abstinence proposed by the Church aims at reorienting and refocusing the psycho-psychological forces towards the spiritual life in order to feel the dependence on God.
‘The abuse of new media, which has become common, produces effects contrary to those sought by fasting and abstinence,’ Larchet said listing ‘the vain exhaustion of energy, permanent external solicitation and dispersion, incessant internal movement and noise, an invasive occupation of time, the impossibility of establishing or maintaining inner peace, and the destruction of the attention and concentration necessary for vigilance and prayer.’
Larchet urged the Church to take into consideration the new circumstances created by our time and ‘establish appropriate rules, accompanying those of fasting from food and sexual abstinence, so as to help modern man, through regular voluntary limitation, to free himself from the new addictions that bind him.’
‘It is necessary to give up being permanently connected and to limit the connection to one defined period in the day,’ he said.
Fasting periods are opportunities to abandon artificial and virtual relationships of social networks so as ‘to rediscover deep, concrete, and real relationships with family and friends, and in general to be more attentive to the people around us.’
Larchet added that ‘Lenten periods are also opportunities for rediscovering silence and solitude, which are necessary for the practice and development of spiritual life.’
Quoting a recent scientific study, Larchet drew attention that the average reader on the internet only reads about 20% of the text.
‘Fasting periods can and should be periods when the time for and the quality of reading can be regained by abandoning digital media in favour of printed materials, and especially books.’
Larchet ended his speech urging, ‘Disconnect from new media to reconnect with God and your neighbour!’