Report from Louisiana: The Social Dilemma

By:  Pat Austin   

SHREVEPORT – Most of the time I feel like we are living in a dystopian universe.  If you watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix you might agree.  Absolutely terrifying.

Come sit in a high school classroom for any length of time and you’ll see the problem that is social media. In my school, the English teachers got together and decided to all take up phones before class each day. You put your phone in in the box before you enter class and they are returned at the end of class. Otherwise, I promise you, kids are staring at their phones and not doing their classwork. There are varying degrees of this truth depending on what school and how motivated the student population is in general.

The Social Dilemma docudrama makes the point that we have an entire generation of kids more anxious, more depressed than ever before due to social media. They are so bound up in that instant gratification from “Likes” and “Shares” that for so many their entire self-worth is connected to this. I see this daily.

This is a subject that has interested me for a long time; when Matt Richtel’s book, A Deadly Wandering, came out in 2014, I eagerly developed lessons around it, shared it with my students, and tried to reinforce its thesis, to no avail. Students thought it was crazy. It’s the “they aren’t taking to ME” syndrome: “I don’t have this problem.”

Social media is so insidious, so pervasive, so much a part of our lives, and we all know it. But we don’t stop. We are so absolutely dependent on it. It controls us.

Nearly everyone has had this experience, or something similar: you are driving by a store…say, Lowe’s, or Home Depot. You say out loud, “Oh, I need to go one day and get a new ladder!” What kind of ads show up on your social media feed next time you go online?

True story: I was outside one day with three friends. One person had a device around her neck with little fans at each end that blew air toward her face and she used this while gardening in our southern heat and humidity. Friend number two said something like, “Oh, that’s cool! Does it work well?” Friend no 1 assured her it worked great. End of conversation. I never uttered a word. What kind of ads were on my social media when I opened Facebook later that afternoon?  Why, ads for little fans you wear around your neck, of course.

Paranoid? Nope. This happens all the time.

Last week I saw one of those ads on Facebook for some shirt with a dragonfly design. I did not click on it. I did linger for a moment, looking at the photo. Now, dragonfly shirts are all over my feed.

This sort of thing is a tiny example of how social media controls and influences us. It is enough for me to want to pull a Travis McGee, unplug from everything, and go off the grid.

Now watch, Travis McGee books will be all over my feed.

Watch The Social Dilemma. It’s an eye opener.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Three Great Signs of a Healthy Parish: Sign 1 Crossed Arms at Communion

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.

John 4:10

There are many blessings that come from attending Mass and the pleasures are amplified when there are so many signs of a parish that is strong and healthy in plain view. In between other subjects I’ll be touching on some of these things this week.

The first sign is something that might not be obvious even to a catholic but leaped out at me yesterday.

Due to COVID restrictions have the pews in the church are unused (closed off with police tape) so when DaWife and I arrived we ended up sitting in the very front pew of the church (something she absolutely hates). A pew that is a tad unusual and different than most, it’s used as a handicapped friendly area. A pew which had been in front of it was removed to fit self propelled and standard wheelchairs so the kneeler is a full yard in front of where you sit.

This had significance today because due to a commitment yesterday I was not in town for confession so when it was time for communion I went up with crossed arms and instead received from the priest, host held in his hand, the following blessing:

May the blessing of almighty God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon you and remain with you all day long.

One can choose to remain in a pew of course but doing this not only gives the benefit of a blessing but also demonstrates respect for the Holy Eucharist for as St. Paul tells us:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

1 Cor 11:23-29

Because I did not receive myself instead of kneeling I sat and watched those who went up to receive. In the front row I had a very good view of everyone particularly because of the COVID restrictions that allow only a single file.

Quite a few people bowed or keeled before receiving (not to give homage to the priest but to Christ who they acknowledged as present in the Eucharist) but there were quite a few, in fact rather a lot who like me came forward with crossed arms getting the same blessing as me.

Many of course where children who had not received their 1st communion but almost as many were adults young and old, who for whatever reason either missing confession or breaking the one hour fast before receiving or whatever other reason understood they were not properly disposed for the Eucharist.

I was impressed, that act, particularly by the young because it would be SO easy to remain in the pew, instead each made a public act acknowledging

  1. The reality and significance of the Eucharist
  2. The necessity of being in a proper state to receive Christ in the Eucharist
  3. Their current state of being unworthy, for whatever reason to receive it

These things reflect

  1. The acknowledgement of Christ in the Eucharist
  2. The holiness of God and the respect he deserves
  3. The conscious of sin and the need to repent of it
  4. The value of the blessing of the Lord

A parish full of people who see these things is a parish well catechized and a well catechized parish is a healthy one.

(Oh and the Priest found time to give me confession after mass but more on that later this week.)