The word device comes from the Latin dividere which meant desire or intention. The phrase “leave someone to their own devices” is the only remaining that describes the original definition of the word.
In today’s vernacular if you say the word “device,” a whole new word – no, a whole new world comes to mind.
I’m speaking, of course, of the digital dimension which we encounter every time we take out our devices and power them on.
When we cross the threshold of our physical reality and into the digital reality of our screens, our souls experience a mystical awakening to the presence of evil. Ask anyone who has had a smartphone for more than a week and they’ll tell you that they’ve felt the darkness that comes with toting such powerful tech. With the simplest slide of a fingertip, we can make things happen.
And the digital demons know how to push our desires and intentions toward downfall, prompting each of the Seven Deadly Sins in a unique way.
Since spiritual warfare exists in the physical world, it most certainly exists in the digital world as well. Mystical battles between angels and demons rage on as we doom-scroll through social media and dominate Candy Crush. Unbeknownst to us, the dark forces hide in the apps we download, lurking for a way into our souls so that they can trap us in addiction.
Here’s how they do it:
Pride in Email and Texting
Think about to the era that preceded the Internet.
Now, go back a bit farther, a time before telephones.
Now rewind a bit more, before mailmen, before telegrams.
For millennia, the most efficient means to communicate with one another was face-to-face in one-on-one, small group, or community meetings. The strength of a tribe, a village, a town, or a city depended on words that people spoke in each other’s presence. We needed one another.
Then email and texting came along.
The number one apps downloaded onto any device are, and always will be, email and text messaging. They connect us in a way that postal carriers from yesteryear couldn’t even imagine, but at what cost?
Answer: we sacrifice true community.
Email and texting has caused us to become more prideful in how we interact with one another. We become islands who can only be reached when someone pushes the “send” button. When we receive a push notification telling us we’ve received a message, we look inward and say to ourselves “I can ignore this” or “I can respond when I’m good and ready.” This manner of thinking leads us to believe we have gained total independence from our fellow man. We no longer need to be relegated to the old-fashioned way of communicating in real time and space – modern man need only to read and respond on his terms, when he wants. This inward way of thinking is the first fruit of pride.
Greed in Gambling
During the pandemic, travel restrictions and mitigation protocols led to less people entering casinos. As we all know, however, the house always wins.
Even when the economic stability of many were teetering, the casinos launched a myriad of successful marketing strategies to not only keep their normal clientele hooked, but to attract even more users to the world of digital gambling. A recent study in online gambling statistics showed an increase of gamblers who jumped online to press their luck, perhaps to multiply their stimulus checks.
Today, casinos from all around the worlds (both digital and real) are riding this wave in a slew of marketing. DraftKings took over your cable ads. BetOnline towers above your highway on billboards. FanDuel interrupts your social media scrolling.
All hoping to capitalize on our greed.
Lust in Pornography
Porn is probably the evil one’s most powerful weapons. It is subtly (and not so subtly) inserted into every aspect of our online lives. Instagram influencers get more likes the more body they show. Half-naked men with muscular physiques tend to sell more underwear. Netflix, Hulu, HBO, YouTube, even basic cable movies and series are sexualizing their characters more than any era before. Even the online exercise instructors who lead us in workouts dress scantily to sell their product.
The saddest part about this particular poison is that people who are exposed to porn are trending younger and younger. Without knowing, parents allow their children unlimited access to naked images of both genders whenever they allow unrestricted screen time. With every industry pushing human eye candy, it’s only a matter of time before their curiosity leads them to click deeper into porn addiction.
Envy in Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat: if you have an account in any of those (or whichever new platform is currently en vogue), you’ll surely notice the vast amounts of hubris and vanity sprinkled into each post. Your best friend is on vacation in Cancun. Your third cousin is showcasing their sushi lunch. Some person you friended years ago that you don’t even know is sharing the good news of their engagement to their soulmate complete with a zoomed-in photo of the ring.
It’s no secret that those who post content on social media typically only post the beautiful, most perfect parts of their lives. Very rarely do you ever see an account that posts the good and the bad parts of their lives. If they did post the darker moments of their lives, there’d be few who’d follow them. Selfies on the beach tend to attract more “friends” than selfies of yourself in bed when you’re sick.
The reason why this is so is because we scroll through our social media feeds to grow more envious of others. We’re attracted to what we believe to be “good,” “true,” and “beautiful,” and when we see something we perceive as good, true, or beautiful, we instinctively compare our own goodness, truth, and beauty to that of others. Inevitably, when our Great Aunt Sally has made her seventh trip to the Cayman Islands (to our none), we start questioning our life decisions based on Aunt Sally’s quality of life.
Gluttony in Online Shopping
When I was growing up, I used to save up my allowance and walk to the candy store, my makeshift wallet in hand, and by as many M&Ms as I could. When I got to the cashier, I’d sprawl a mix of coins and candies counting each one just to make sure I had enough to fill my gut with the sugary sweets. Then, I’d walk home, calculate how many I could eat before I got sick, eat that amount, and repeat the process every week.
The other day, I was talking with my sixth grade students about this process. It led to a debate about which flavor of M&Ms was superior. We ranked them. Debated. Re-ranked them. Debated some more. When the conversation was about to end, one of my students said, “Mr. Burdick, I’m going to get you some M&Ms for your present at the end of the school year.”
I responded, “That’s so kind of you! Where do you plan on getting them?”
“Amazon,” he answered matter-of-factly.
In a world where Amazon, Shipt, DoorDash, and Facebook Marketplace exist, what’s stopping us from ever leaving our homes? Multiply the vice of prideful isolation to the nearly unlimited purchasing power of credit cards in a materialistic society (one that can afford expensive devices) and you have the perfect recipe for gluttony.
Wrath in the Comments
When one takes the giant leap of posting their opinion on any matter in the digital world, there will be tens, hundreds, even thousands of people who do not share that same opinion.
They will find your post.
They will comment on your post.
Those comments will rarely be civil.
Why? Because the digital environment gives people autonomous confidence that they might not have if they were responding to your opinion face-to-face. They grow bolder in their defense of their opinion because there is zero risk to them, especially if their account is anonymous.
Want proof? Go and take a look at the comments under the Pope’s latest tweet.
Sloth in Gaming
Last, and certainly not least, the ever-present entertainment of gaming has latched onto the free time of many a soul. Again, playing games is not in and of itself evil. St. Thomas Aquinas himself once wrote that “…such like words or deeds wherein nothing further is sought than the soul’s delight, are called playful or humorous. Hence it is necessary at times to make use of them, in order to give rest, as it were, to the soul” (ST II-II Q 168 A 2).
The problem comes when gaming is done instead of life’s primary responsibilities, namely to work, to serve, and to love. When gaming takes the place of these activities (and is not merely to give rest to the soul), then it is considered sloth.
The Meaning of it All
In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that the original definition of the word “device” meant desire or intention. It’s clear that the aforementioned vices are integrated into our digital experiences so as to enamor our desires and intentions.
But if we take it a step further, we find that the deeper etymological root of the Latin word dividere is divis, which means divided.
From this same root, we get the word devil.
Satan divides. That’s his primary goal – he wants to divide you from God.
Right now, his most powerful weapon is the phone you are tethered to, the computer you work on, the TV that’s on even when no one is watching, even the smartwatch that’s chained to your wrist.
The devil divides with devices.
Perhaps we should consider how easy we make it for him?