On June 28, 2011, Benedict XVI sent his first tweet to announce the launch of the new Vatican website news.va. This was the first tweet made by a pope and it was made in English on an iPad 2. For Catholics on the Internet, this is good news.
Fr. James Martin, SJ, culture editor of America, in a July 4th article, wrote that there is other good news to be sure. Most Catholic organizations and institutions have a solid web presence. And he points out that The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has found great success in the world of social media. It has a successful Facebook fan page with 29,000 fans and it also maintains its own YouTube channel and frequently updates its Twitter feed.
In his Status Update, Fr. Martin also exposes our web shortcomings. He writes
The bad news is that more than a few Catholic sites are unimaginative, difficult to navigate, full of dead links and look like they have not been redesigned since the Clinton administration. In the print world, magazine editors are encouraged to redesign every five years. On the Web, reinvention happens more frequently. If the medium is the message, then the message is that the church is often a laggard. More lamentable than the appearance is the content: while church sites are repositories for information, they are often nothing more than that. While Mass times and donor information are important, a good Web site requires more than just raw facts. As philosophers might say, these are a necessary but not sufficient condition for stickinesss. (“Stickiness” is the ability of a site to keep a visitor engaged and interested.)
Fr. Martin speaks about the importance of keeping a website fresh and up-to-date especially if we want to attract younger audiences. He believes that we also need to use new media and be active on social networks. He concludes his article by addressing those who think that social media is below them with these words:
No medium is beneath us when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel, especially to the young. This includes Web sites, but also all social and digital media. How sad it would be if we did not use the latest tools available to us to communicate the word of God. If Jesus could talk about the birds of the air, then we can surely tweet.
We know the Pope gets it. Let’s see if our Catholic organizations can catch up.
Please take the time to read Fr. Martin’s full article and share your comments below.