"Lay not Thy heart open to every one; but treat of thy affairs with the wise, and such as fear God. Converse not much with young people and strangers. Flatter not the rich: neither do thou appear willingly before great personages. Keep company with humble and plain ones, with the devout and virtuous; and confer with them of those things that may edify. Be not familiar with any woman; but in general commend all good women to God. Desire to be familiar to God alone and His angels, and avoid the acquaintance of men. We must have charity towards all, but familiarity with all is not expedient. . . "
(Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis, Ch. VIII)At first glance, this excerpt from the Imitation of Christ may appear to only apply to monks living in a monastery. Yet, as with every chapter in this famous devotional, it provides wise advice for all religious and laymen. Men are, by nature, social beings and as such desire to be with and around others. The natural instinct for communion is what draws men to be married and have a family, or to enter into a spiritual marriage (with Christ or the Church). Ultimately, it is what draws all men to final communion with God in heaven. But, as with all naturally good inclinations that God has written on our hearts, the devil can pervert this desire by proposing a superficial union with others that does nothing to aid our attempts at holiness, and can only deteriorate the foundations of our family life.
Our age of technology has only worsened this temptation that the devil lays before us. It induces us to be more open with others about our personal lives than perhaps in the past. We form superficial attachments, and familiar bonds with others while weakening marital, and familial bonds, and the supernatural bond that is meant to draw us to closer union with God. But we would be foolish to believe that the internet is the only threat, though a large one nonetheless. We must be careful not to seek emotional intimacy outside our vocation, to "lay not thy heart open to every one; but to treat of thy affairs with the wise. . ." Spiritual direction is necessary, and vocational guidance or mentoring is needed at times in our lives, but when we foster a familiarity with others that is unwarranted it can do much to damage our primary relationships, and future ones as well if we have not already entered into a permanent state of life.
"We must have charity towards all, but familiarity with all is not expedient. . ."