According to a recent study by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) “One in four adult Catholics (26 percent) have at least one social network profile (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace) where they self-identify their religion. A similar percentage, 24 percent, has one or more profiles but does not specify their religion on any of these.” (Catholic Media Use in the United States, 2011 by Mark M. Gray, Ph.D. and Mary L. Gautier, Ph.D.) Thus 50% of Catholics have an online profile. The study also reports that 24% of adult Catholics attend Mass weekly.
The study was commissioned by the Catholic Press Association CPA) and it looked carefully at how print publications and other media are faring. The study which was based on the survey results of 1,239 self-identified adult Catholics reports that in the three months prior to the survey, 26% had read a print copy of their diocesan paper or magazine, but only 5% read it weekly. Four percent of adult Catholics read an online version of their diocesan newspaper or magazine in the three months prior to the survey.
Survey respondents were shown a list of national catholic publications.
In general, Pre-Vatican II Catholics are more aware than younger Catholics of national Catholic print publications. Only 25 percent of respondents of this generation were not aware of any of the titles listed. The lack of awareness of any of the publications listed increases to 50 percent among Vatican II Generation Catholics and 64 percent among Post-Vatican II Catholics. Seven in ten Millennials (70 percent) are unaware of any of the publications shown….
Catholic print publications, if they are to be successful online, will need to utilize social networks and other new media to spread awareness of their content. It will not be enough just to post content online. Someone who is not aware of the content will be unlikely ever to come across it.
Catholics are online, but they are not reading Catholic publications there. Our problems in finding print or online readers of faith content are deeply rooted in the lack of interest in their faith by Catholics. Some are simply overwhelmed by their everyday lives and have no time for religion; others just have no interest. Some have “lost” faith completely. But it is not only to Catholics that the Church is called to proclaim the gospel, it is to the whole world.
While print publications are losing readers, they still meet the needs of some people and must find ways to support themselves to continue. While even the best “catholic” websites have relatively small audiences, the evangelizers and catechists among us must find ways to “speak in parables,” using everyday realities, needs and concerns as the point of engagement. If we want people to be engaged in the faith, then evangelizers must be engaged with everyday realities in a way that is life-giving, hope-filled and sometimes just fun. Today, people are increasingly online—we need to be there with them and for them.
Other bloggers who have commented on this study from the social media perspective are Monsignor Pope, Brandon Vogt, and Matt Warner. Their comments are worth reading. You can read the entire study here.
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