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In the past, I have often lament about the lack of understanding and discerning approach towards teh area of socail media and networking and was wondering if there was a Catholic pespective in this to help us wade through the flotsam and jetsam of this media culture whose wave of influence have affected practically every spectrum of a person's life, whether they be infant, the young or the old.
Recently, I went to a talk at the Singapore Pastoral Institute given by Dr Eugene Gan, who teaches interactive media and communication arts at the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio). The talk was organised by the Archdiocesan Communications office and Dr Gan shared with the audience about how to use the media rightly, and through it to engage people and bring them to something better. This was the best and insightful starting point for my grasp to this dilemma of a Catholic Christian perspective on social media and the likes.
His session - Infinite Bandwith: Encountering Christ in the Media - outline several points that any one, parents especially, who is serious in making sense of what the culture of social media is all about (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc...):
It is as old as Creation itself
It is all about communications. God is himself the greatest communicator and since the time of Creation has been using social media in varied ways to get our attention to respond to Him. Of course, how He does that will be in line and pertinent with the times and era of humanity in history. For us today, it just happens to be in the forms of Facebook and other related items. Thus such forms of communications are gifts from God and must be used appropriately and wisely.
This then brings us to the need for a good and discerning tool in order to have a balance approach to the use of the social media elements that proliferate within most aspect of the societal's lives and experiences. Hence, we speak of media keys, 7 of them as proposed by Dr Gan:
a. Balanced - practice balanced on interacting online, interactin in-person, managing my responsibilities.
b. Attitude - my attitude, who is the intended audience?
c. Personal - do I uphold human dignity? do I promote individualism or support a communal spirit?
d. Truth-filled - is it grounded on the Word of God? make a distinction between truth and accuracy, am I representig myself authentically online?
e. Inspires - media is a sign, not an end; do I inspire others to seek the truth?
f. Skillfully developed - is it creatively, skillfully and artfully produced or communicated?
g. Motivated by & Relevant to Experience - does it engage or interest you? do you use online social media to build bridges?
His book, which the title of his talk was derived from, is on sale as an ebook online (e.g. Amazon) or can be gotten as a paperback from Emmaus Road Publishing, and should form an indispensible and engaging read for parents, catechists, teachers or anyone who is interested in dealing with the effects of social media in one's life.
Another equally engaging book that looks into this arena is "The Church and the New Media" by Brandon Vogt. The premise is similar and it asks this probing question: How can Christians harness these new tools to reach out, to teach, to build community, and to change the world? Too often we, as members of the clergy and lay faithful are slow in engaging the social media effectively in really "changing the world". This book wants to offer a right step in that direction to cultivate community and form the faithful, among other things.
If you are searching around for something engaging, soul-searching and faith-filled to read and yet be in touch with the realities of the daily life these are the two you ought to get your hands on!