Now that he’s been on Twitter for a few weeks, Pope Benedict seems to think he knows EVERYTHING about social media and online networking!!
OK, just joking, but the power of online mediums to be tools for evangelisation was the main theme of his message for World Communications Day last week. As the Pope pointed out — not for the first time, I must say — the Internet can and should be used as a place for intelligent and respectful dialogue.
I wish to consider the development of digital social networks which are helping to create a new “agora”, an open public square in which people share ideas, information and opinions, and in which new relationships and forms of community can come into being.
These spaces, when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for privacy, responsibility and truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals and effectively promote the harmony of the human family.
The exchange of information can become true communication, links ripen into friendships, and connections facilitate communion. If the networks are called to realize this great potential, the people involved in them must make an effort to be authentic since, in these spaces, it is not only ideas and information that are shared, but ultimately our very selves.
This is an important distinction the Pope makes — we can share the essence of who we are using the Internet, and if being Catholic is part of that essence, then shouldn’t that be part of what we share?
In social networks, believers show their authenticity by sharing the profound source of their hope and joy: faith in the merciful and loving God revealed in Christ Jesus. This sharing consists not only in the explicit expression of their faith, but also in their witness, in the way in which they communicate “choices, preferences and judgements that are fully consistent with the Gospel, even when it is not spoken of specifically” (Message for the 2011 World Communications Day).
There should be no lack of coherence or unity in the expression of our faith and witness to the Gospel in whatever reality we are called to live, whether physical or digital. When we are present to others, in any way at all, we are called to make known the love of God to the furthest ends of the earth.
So there’s the challenge. How are you and I using our online profiles to achieve that? What more could we do? And what are we actually willing to do?