Andrea Scapinello and John O’Brien will discuss how young adults can apply Ignatian practice to their social media habits Photo from StockSnap

An examination of your social media conscience

By  Steven Travale, Youth Speak News
  • January 22, 2016

Marshall McLuhan, a communications philosopher and former professor at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, once stated that “we make our tools, and then our tools make us.”

The upcoming Theology on Tap event on Jan. 25 will discuss Examen Your Social Media. The event will use the Ignatian spiritual practice to equip young adults with valuable tools to use in their daily social media interactions.

The tool in question? The Examen, a prayer technique created and used by St. Ignatius of Loyola to grow closer to God and improve his routine actions. It is meant to remind us of God’s constant presence in our lives and discern His direction for us.

“Examen Your Social Media was an interesting topic for us because social media is so prevalent in the life of young adults and therefore hopefully a relevant and interesting topic for them,” said Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt, program director with Faith Connections, a young adult ministry of Fontbonne Ministries and the Sisters of St. Joseph Toronto that hosts the Theology on Tap event series.

Andrea Scapinello, volunteer co-ordinator for Jesuit Volunteers Canada, will speak at the event. She will be joined by John O’Brien who is presently in Jesuit formation. Scapinello and O’Brien both agree that with habitual use of the Examen, their spiritual lives have improved, bringing them to pray and act more thoughtfully.

“One of the major purposes of the Examen is getting to know the language of God through your inner emotions, in daily life,” said O’Brien.

“The tools of discernment, including the Examen, can only be helpful when thinking about your life, your everyday choices, and also things that come into your life, like social media,” said Scapinello.

By using the contemplative technique that the Examen provides, young adults can be watchful about what they do and say on social media. They will better understand why it is prudent not to post an angry message on their Facebook account or share an inappropriate image on Instagram.

O’Brien noted that media use can be a huge part of the lives of young people and that they are concerned about their usage and interactions on it.

“We want to apply this Ignatian tool of discernment to this social and personal practice which has radically changed how we live, in the past five years,” said O’Brien.

St. Ignatius developed the Examen to help Catholics make conscious decisions in their daily life and be open to hearing God’s perspective. The Examen is comprised of five steps: become aware of God’s presence, review the day with gratitude, pay attention to your emotions, choose one feature of the day and pray from it, and finally, look toward tomorrow.

“The Examen can be used as a daily reflection on your life. It can give you a sense of the movements of God within your life, and help with making large life choices, as well as simple daily choices,” said Scapinello.

Scapinello is keen to share her knowledge and experiences with the Examen with the young adults who come to Theology on Tap. In using the Examen daily, she explained that she has improved her prayer life and continued her discernment.

O’Brien and Scapinello’s talk will be held at the Duke of York Pub in downtown Toronto from 7-9 p.m. The presentation begins at 7:30 p.m. followed by small group discussions and a Q&A session. It is open to all young adults (19-39). More information can be found at

(Travale, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart High School in Walkerton, Ont.)

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