Who Are We on the Digital Continent?

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on December 4, 2012

in Pope Benedict XVI, technology

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI in an address to the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, referred to the new world of emerging technologies as the “digital continent.” And in other documents, he refers to those who have been born into this digital world as the “digital generation.”

Recently, I have seen references to the digital continent and have been thinking about its meaning. By now, you have heard the terms digital natives referring to those who have grown up with the Internet and digital immigrants referring to those of us who have had to learn this strange new culture and language. The concept of digital continent makes sense for older generations as we have to “go there.” I am not sure that younger generations would see it the same way because they are already there and anything previous is ancient history.

For the sake of this article, let’s think about how we older generations, are embracing or resisting this new world.

Some of us are pioneers, forging ahead, breaking new ground, finding ways to work, communicate, minister, collaborate more effectively online. We are reading about the latest digital device and wondering how we can afford to get one. We are blogging; we are on Facebook and Twitter. We upload photos and videos taken with our phones. We are texting with our children and grandchildren. We have Skype and FaceTime with family and colleagues.

Some of us are there for fun and games—enough said. There is a lot of entertainment on the Internet (good and not so good).

Some of us are tourists, visiting and checking things out. We listen to the natives and the tour guides and try a few new things now and then. We might use email and we occasionally “Google” something. We either don’t use social media or we use it to keep track of others, but rarely, if ever, share anything about ourselves. The digital continent is someplace to visit, but we look forward to going home to the familiar.

Some of us are practical consumers. We do everything we can online—we bank online, we order online, we keep all of our records online, we watch movies online, we do all of our comparison shopping online, we research our medications and medical conditions online, we get our news online. It is so easy and convenient, why not do it online?

Some of us aren’t interested in new worlds or continents. We are fine just the way we are. Let the young deal with this new technology—we do not need it. It is all around us, but we pull the drapes and ignore it.

Some of us are digital missionaries. We are online to witness and spread the gospel message in whatever way our talents and time allow. We blog, we comment, we post, we respond, we “like,” we “follow,” we share whatever we think promotes the values and teachings of Jesus Christ. We demonstrate that people of faith have compassion and humor; care about family, friends and those in need; want to make a difference.

There are all kinds of people on the digital continent. Who are you and how do you navigate this new terrain?

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat Sylvester December 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm

This is a great article that shows you have a grasp
of what is going on in all of the “states & cities”
within the new technological “continent.”
Thanks for helping some of us to open the drapes
and discover it all!

Lisa Hendey December 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm

I’d put myself into the “digital missionary wannabe” category. I strive to use it in that way, but often think God could have selected a more able missionary! Thanks for a thought provoking article.

Marika Donders December 6, 2012 at 9:08 am

I sometimes worry that those of us who are so used to doing everything online, forget that there are people who are not online, on facebook, on twitter. Sometimes when I talk to one of my more “luddite” friends I am surprised that they don’t know about a change in my life (such as a new job, someone passing, the fact that I moved). I think to myself: wait, didn’t I post that on FB? …ooooh, you aren’t ON Facebook! Same with evangelization – I talk to people in parishes who have not heard about that fabulous event that is happening tonight! It’s on our Web, on the FB page, there is even a FB event … we emailed all the parishes … (but we forgot to send out paper flyers for the old fashioned, but still very functional, parish bulletin boards.)

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND December 6, 2012 at 9:43 am

Thanks, for your affirmation, Pat.

Lisa, from my vantage point, you are more than a wannabe missionary–you are a pioneer digital missionary. Your many online contributions, especially through CatholicMom.com, are a great service to building the kingdom of God on earth.

Marika, thanks for reminding us that the people in our communities inhabit different worlds. For some members, the Internet is not part of their lives and others seldom read anything on paper. This is a big generalization, but what we have to realize is that the former are passing away and the latter often aren’t in Church. We have to minister to both, which means that we in ministry leadership must attend to the digital and non-digital worlds at the same time if we want to preserve the faith as well as pass it on. We also have to remember that people have to be told about something multiple times before it sticks. I remember from my parish ministry days (before social media), publishing events in the bulletin, putting out fliers and posters, making announcements and still running into people who “never heard about it.” We do the best we can and use every means possible to get the word out. Today one of those means is the Internet. We cannot neglect it.

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