Social Media and Your Faith Life, Pastoral Ministry in the Digital Age Part 6

by Sr. Susan Wolf, SND on October 24, 2017

in Catholic, Digital Age, social media

Responses to a poll conducted by America Magazine via Facebook, Twitter and their email newsletter in September 2017, found that 70% of the respondents answered positively to the question “Has social media helped you grow closer to God?”*

Positive respondents praised Pope Francis for his use of social media and reported that access to Catholic sources through social media was very helpful to them.

Of the 30% who answered the question in the negative, their reasoning had a lot to do with the  lack of civility, courtesy and dialogue in the comments as well as the fact that some opinion posts portray themselves as facts.

This poll (while not a strictly a scientific study) lends credence to the importance of the sixth and final challenge that comes to pastoral ministry in this digital age according to Antonio Spardaro, SJ, in his book, Friending God: Social Media, Spirituality and Community:

Social Media needs to be “An interactive ministry attentive to interior life.” (Page 66)

My Reflection

In summarizing the six challenges he identified and how we are to meet them, Fr. Spadaro urges us to be discerning in our digital pastoral ministry and to follow the directive of St. Ignatius Loyola: “Seek and find God in all things.”

Our pastoral activity on social media is not meant to create a refuge from the “real” world, but rather to find God present there and to make that presence known to all. We celebrate the good and wonderful graces that we witness and we stand in solidarity with those who suffer and are in pain, those who are marginalized and ostracized.

I will admit that I am sometimes disheartened by some “unchristian” comments that I find on Catholic social media sites, by people I am assuming are Catholic, in response to Catholic perspectives on current hot topics like refugees, immigrants, the death penalty, etc.

Jesus encountered people who resisted his message, who tried to trap him. People walked away because his teaching was too difficult to accept and in the end his enemies killed him. But he never stopped teaching, healing, or forgiving. That’s where we need to be on social media—authentic and compassionate, sensitive to the interior life of those who want to follow Jesus and respectful of those who don’t.

There is a difference between genuine dialogue and a negative person simply using our platform to spew hate or bigotry of any kind or to just pick a fight. When the latter is apparent, I am in perfect agreement with deleting their posts and blocking them.

My experience is that parish and other local sites seldom if ever attract the truly hostile responses. Perhaps, because too many people know who the commenters are. But I have seen them on social media sites of diocesan and national ministries where the audiences are larger and the writers perhaps feel unknown. In any case we have a duty to “speak the truth in love.” Let’s do it that way.

Conclusion

As this is the final post in the series, I encourage everyone to read Friending God. It is very short, but provides a lot to think about and discuss with pastoral ministers especially those who are charged with social media responsibilities.

*Link to the article from America Magazine

Your comments are welcome.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tony Krisak October 24, 2017 at 12:55 pm

A very well done series, with good advice at the end about dealing with negativity and bias.

Sr. Susan Wolf, SND October 24, 2017 at 3:09 pm

Thank you, Tony!

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