New Media and the Impoverishment of Spiritual Life

Last summer, famed Orthodox patrologist and philosopher Jean-Claude Larchet, Ph.D. made a jarring suggestion at a session of the International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care in Crete (DMOPC18). The Orthodox Church should, in his view, officially call for Her faithful to abstain during fasting periods from using the internet in general and social media in particular. Dr Larchet said, in part: “Completely cutting oneself off from media of any kind during the Lenten periods is an ideal solution for finding the hesychiaindispensable to the deepening of the spiritual life, which is precisely the main goal of the fasting periods.”

Such a call was not borne of simple luddite tendencies but rather founded in up-to-date research on the effects of new media on the human psyche and society, as well as a deep understanding of the Church’s teachings on nepsis (vigilance) and hesychia. In fact, Dr Larchet is himself the author of a book on this very subject. Recently, Holy Trinity Publications translated and published this work in the English language as The New Media Epidemic: The Undermining of Society, Family, and Our Own Soul. We offer a short excerpt from this work below expanding on the connection between the harms imposed by our obsession with new media and the Orthodox Church’s teachings on spiritual life.

These selections come from pp. 137, 145–153 of the print edition. All endnotes have been omitted from this excerpt.