On Dec. 12, 2012, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Pope Benedict sent his first tweet. How appropriate then, is the theme of his message for 2013′s World Communications Day: social media! Titled Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization, the Message is a thoughtful exploration of social media—especially the opportunities they offer to build human relationships.
Over the years, I have found these Messages for World Communications Days gems for understanding the gifts that the media are to humanity, as well as helpful tools for using them responsibly, ethically, and as a means for evangelization.
In a particular way I welcome the Pope’s message this year, as I am no expert in social media. (I tend to like writing long-form, yet Twitter can be a daily writing exercise!) His thoughtful appraisal of the characteristics of social media really resonates with me, helping me to discern how I can more effectively use the strengths of social media, and what to take special note of so that the limitations don’t damage the quality of my online communication and relationships. In his Message, the Pope comments on:
- Conditions that foster the best of social media: where dialogue and debate thrive
- The aspirations of the human heart that drive social networks
- Challenges that the culture of social networks offers to communicators
- The understanding and language of social media (briefly)
- Evangelization and social media: suggestions for communicating faith, and the faith that we need to nurture as communicators
Pope Benedict’s last couple of messages clearly show how the Church has come to understand social media as a public space in which the Church needs to have a wise, inclusive, and dialogical presence. This year’s Message calls social media a new “agora.”
One point in this Message that deserves further reflection is that, no matter how new are the media with which we engage, what is “behind” them is always the same: the human heart.
The basic human desire to love and be loved, and to find meaning and truth—a desire which God himself has placed in the heart of every man and woman—keeps our contemporaries ever open to what Blessed Cardinal Newman called the “kindly light” of faith. - Message for the 47th World Communications Day
The human heart is always the same…and while the technology might change and develop (even at astonishing speeds), the needs that we seek to fulfill, whether in person or digitally, are the same. What this means for me as a communicator is that I want to strive for authenticity, the best of my humanity, and the deepest of faith in all of my communication and relationships. Love—specifically God’s saving love manifested in Christ—is always what we are called to point towards!