Lenten Update and What’s So Great About New Media?

I debated about whether or not I should blog this.

My thesis is almost complete. I’ve been learning so much about the Church and communications this semester, and while many of the critiques, philosophies and historical analyses have challenged me to evaluate my thesis, I believe that my point is still valid.

I’m eager to share this thesis with the world, but that can’t happen until March comes along. Still, allow me to give you a sneak peek by answering a comment that was left on the blog.

Good luck for your theisis. I am currently studying the same topic and from interviews that I have had I’ve started to change my mind.

Please try to be objective – I originally approched the topic with exactly the same biased opinions as yourself – the Church must adopt Social media on a widescale basis and quickly.

However I believe that I was wrong on that opinion, it is a secondary form of Communication which is much weaker than meeting the community face to face, sharing their concerns and more importantly listening to people.

Social Media is probably fine as a news outlet but can that time be better spent on high quality forms of communication which is more likely to make a difference to people’s lives? ……….

RC, thanks for your thoughts. I don’t want anyone to think that a) new media are superior forms of communication or b) that the Church should prefer new media methods to first-person communication. I would think, hope, and pray that no proponent of new media believes either of these ideas. Your comment seems to assume that my thesis will support them.

My “bone to pick” with your comment lies in the last sentence: “Can that time [used in consuming and producing new media] be better spent on high quality forms of communication which is more likely to make a difference to people’s lives?”

First, can the time, money and energy we spend consuming and producing new media be better spent? My answer depends upon the fact that new media are reaching people who probably will not be touched by the Church in any other way. Think of the soldier in Iraq who has few/no fellow Catholics in his campsite and no Catholic chaplain. (Not a rare situation.) New media are also reaching people who usually do not associate with the Church in public. Think of the agnostic who downloads a Catholic podcast because she’s curious about the topic. New media can reach people under persecution for their faith or who are in the minority.

These are people whom “high quality forms of communication” (I assume you mean traditional media, but even first-person communication will do) will not reach. Therefore, I would venture to suggest that the time, money and energy spent on traditional media targeting any members of these groups are better spent on new media.

New media has the ability to make more difference in their lives than any other form of communication, because most other forms of Catholic communication are either unavailable or uninteresting.

I could blog on for days in response to your comments, but here’s the key for me: The Church has the ability to use new media to reach people whom She would not reach otherwise. For those individuals, such new media outlets can become places where they encounter the Church. Due to Her mission, any new media product developed by the Church would be a failure if it did not encourage the consumer’s encounter with The Body of Christ in an interpersonal sense.

For the reasons you mention, many people are opposed to any large-scale efforts by the Church to engage in new media. They’ve heard about the one-sided, egoistic, inane stories about new media. But these stories, most social media experts would argue, are stories about the misuse of new & social media. New media are about engaging others, and creating opportunities for people to  interact in meaningful ways – virtually and physically.

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One response

  1. One of our Popes (I can’t remember if it was JPII or BXVI) at a World communication day said that social media should, in their perfection, be used to facilitate authentic face-to-face relationships.

    Blogs, podcasts, videos, and other New Media should spark a deeper infatuation and relationship with Jesus that draws the subscriber into relationship with the tangible Church and other Christians. I think there may be a danger when New Media is the sole way people connect to the life with God. If we spend more time encountering Christ in a blog/Facebook/Youtube than the Eucharist or other people, we may have to adjust our priorities.

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