Recently, a print journalist sent me a list of questions to answer as part of an article she was writing on the Catholic Church’s use of social media. One of the questions was: What are the advantages and disadvantages to Catholic groups using social media websites? [Social media websites are blogs, Facebook, Twitter….) Here were some of my thoughts as I answered this question.
Advantages of Using Social Media
There are two major advantages for Catholic groups to be using social media.
- The use of social media provides groups with new channels to communicate with members, potential members, donors and the wider community. It helps us to get the word out.
- The use of social media makes groups accessible to people who are looking on the Internet for what these groups have to offer. It makes us available to “seekers.”
Disadvantages of Using Social Media
To be honest, I can’t think of any disadvantages to using social media, but I am aware of two objections that are often given: the time social media takes and that it is “impersonal.”
Good Communications Take Time and Effort
Where good communications are a priority, leaders give them time and effort whether they are using traditional channels or social media. Sometimes the objection to using social media is often based on the fact that communications are not that important regardless of the means. Where leaders give a high priority to communications (hence, time and effort)—social media is embraced readily—because it can extend their reach and impact, often in less time.
Nothing Replaces Personal Contact
The individuals with whom we work one on one are not going to disappear when we use social media. They will always be with us, because there are some interactions that require in-person contact. And if we do use social media, they will have an additional way to benefit from our expertise.
The number of people we can serve personally is limited by time and opportunity, while the number of people we can serve through social media is unlimited. For example, in a parish of 1000 households, less than 30% attend Mass on any given Sunday. Ministers may have one on one contact with a small number of these people. What about the 70% who are not in Church on Sunday or the ones who are there, whom we do not know? Social media allows us to reach out to them, to offer faith formation in spirituality or scripture, to form community, to communicate important news, to ask their opinions, etc. Social media also makes us and others in our community available when active and inactive members have questions. The engaging in conversation and the exchange of ideas which social media facilitates can be very positive and enriching. Does every good church experience have to be face to face?
How would you answer: What are the advantages and disadvantages to Catholic groups using social media websites?