In his message on the 44th World Communications Day (2010), Pope Benedict XVI, said, “Responding adequately to this challenge amid today’s cultural shifts, to which young people are especially sensitive, necessarily involves using new communications technologies. The world of digital communication, with its almost limitless expressive capacity, makes us appreciate all the more Saint Paul’s exclamation: ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’ (1 Cor 9:16). The increased availability of the new technologies demands greater responsibility on the part of those called to proclaim the Word, but it also requires them to become more focused, efficient and compelling in their efforts.”
If used improperly, social media can be a huge waste of time. Anyone who uses Facebook can think of an instance or two where we started looking at people’s status’ and photos, commenting on posts, and suddenly two hours have past.
The same thing can happen when you get more into the advocacy side of social media. There are tons of blogs out there saying things that you agree with, and others saying things that you do not agree with. If all you do is encourage and refute these bloggers, you’ll never sleep.
In addressing just one of the requirements we have regarding social media, it is important to keep in mind that one way to be “efficient” is to advocate for your own Diocese. You might be surprised how often Catholic bishops are attacked in local newspapers, newsletters, and on local TV with absolutely no response from local Catholics. It’s simply amazing.
What is equally amazing, yet depressing, is that bishops and their communications staff often receive emails and phone calls from people expressing support for the Diocese and their bishop despite what they believe to be unfair or biased reporting on the part of the news media. Being aware of what the public is saying in the commenting section of these articles and videos, I sometimes scratch my head wondering “where are all of those supporters?”
On a similar token, if a reporter does a good job reporting on the Church, was unbiased and objective, and gave credit where credit is due, publicly thank them for that. Comment your appreciation in the commenting section of the online version of the article, mention it on their Facebook page. Do something!
Your seemingly lone voice advocating for the Church in the the digital, social media world can bring other Catholics out of the woodwork, encourage others to think more deeply about their lives, and change the tone of a conversation started by a news story. Your voice can also enforce a sense of accountability amongst the news media in their reporting of the Catholic Church as well. While it’s clear that many Catholics have yet to support the Church in the digital world in the way that they do in the “real” world, you can begin to change that in your diocese.
Ways to be Efficient
As examples, writing letters to the editor, commenting on articles and blogs, sharing information on social networking sites, going to news media Facebook pages and seeing what is shared there about a story involving your bishop, and similar efforts are excellent ways to begin supporting the Church online. If starting your own blog or website is your calling, great. But the smaller forms of involvement are just as important and we all have a responsibility to get involved.