There is a passage in Ecclesiastes that says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new?’”
Since it is the Word of God, we know it is true, but in other ways, it feels the furthest thing from the truth. Never before have we ever had the technology to access almost any person, or any information, at any time in any place. Social media feels very new!
The Catholic Church has 2000-plus years of experience in dealing with new things, regardless of what the “new” thing happens to be. The experience provides us with some guideposts to navigate uncharted territory. The virtues have been the timeless backbone guiding Catholics in living a moral and healthy life. The virtue that I would like to focus on is under the umbrella of the Cardinal Virtue of prudence, the virtue of leisure.
What is leisure?
Most people think of leisure as doing nothing or escaping the grind of daily life. It is considered to be finding entertainment or time to lose yourself on an extended vacation or artificial experience. Most of these experiences aim to find rest; however, they simply rest the body, not the soul. Unfortunately, that idea of leisure is more about seeking pleasure and enjoyment, and the soul remains busy and noisy.
Authentic leisure is the habit of finding activities and creating space for things in our lives that are good, true, and beautiful, creating stillness within us. When this happens, it's the fertile ground for connection to others. Leisure is about doing the things necessary to build the highest good in your life and others.
This can look different at different stages of life. Prayer and contemplation might be the most obvious way to practice leisure, but hobbies and activities are also great! Things like reading a good book, walking, dancing, dog training, gardening, or doing a puzzle.
What does leisure have to do with social media?
At its core, social media is about building connections with others. While, in many ways, social media does help us stay connected, spending our time on it does not typically leave us feeling peaceful and rested. It often leaves us feeling scattered, anxious, and disconnected. Rates of anxiety and depression have gone through the roof in the past decade, which corresponds with the time social media became widely available. Social media is part of our lives and is not going away, but building a healthy relationship with social media is one of the vital tasks in our age.
How you can foster the virtue of leisure in yourself and others.
The Catholic Church offers us guidance in the form of the same wisdom it has passed down through the years: live the virtues. Living out the virtue of leisure helps us evaluate if we are spending a healthy amount of time on social media. Is it fostering the ability to connect deeply to those around you?
Living with leisure means spending your precious time every day to find stillness. Stillness even in the hustle and bustle of daily life. The challenge I pose to you all is to look for small ways to start the habit of practicing leisure. Step one is figuring it out for yourself. Step two is inviting others into leisure.
One way to practice this is to talk about the things you find most interesting to others. Merely talking about your hobbies and activities can ignite in others a desire to find their own! Especially when you share how you celebrate leisure on Sundays. When asked, “How was your weekend?” it can be powerful to respond with how you slowed down and did something purely out of enjoyment that created stillness inside you.
Finally, to help others practice leisure, invite them to join you in your leisure. Ask them to join you when you run errands or have a mundane task to do at home without phones. Inviting others into leisure opens up opportunities for a deeper connection with those around you and within yourself.