Every year we celebrate the World Communications Day. The purpose of this celebration is to highlight the importance of communications media in our world and how it creates a global community through the technology and the messages they communicate. The aim is to increase awareness of how crucial media is in our lives and to the whole human family.
This year, Pope Francis’ focus reflects on how we are truly meant to use social media as ways of connecting and encountering others. We have a longing and desire to connect and be in communion with others and these avenues offer a place to connect, rediscover and support one another. Yet there has been a misdirected purpose of social media, which seems to be increasing more each day. Pope Francis invites us to look at the true purpose of what the internet, particularly social media, were created for and how we are currently using them.
The motivation for creating the first social network was to offer a platform to connect and share information with others using words, videos and images. The Pope uses the image of a net, which is intertwined and connected together, showing how our digital media connects us with others. It's purpose is for knowledge, information, as well as connection with other people. However, rather than finding it as a place of encounter to unite and build up, people sometimes use these media in disrespectful and hurtful ways. The Pope gives the statistic of cyberbullying, saying that every 1 in 4 youths experience being bullied online. Unfortunately, according to some studies, this has sometimes lead young people to commit suicide.
Media are gifts of God that allow us to grow in knowledge as well as to connect, rediscover and help others. Yet the way many use social media goes against the true definition of community, which is what these media are meant to be.
Pope Francis quotes Saint Paul reminding us of our true identity as human beings when he say, “We are members of one another" (Eph. 4:25). It is important to ask ourselves how we use these media? Am I choosing to build community or create division? From the surface view of our feed, it can seem that many choose to use social media to promote and portray themselves as better than others. The Pope corrects this arrogant view of self when he writes, “What ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism.”
The Pope’s emphasis is to return to the true and healthy understanding of a strong community based on building up rather than tearing down. A strong community is defined as being in harmony with one another. The key requirement to build a strong community is mutual listening and open dialogue.
Social media can be used to uphold true, beautiful and solid relationships. We are invited to use social media not as a means to promote hatred, which divides, but rather as a means to build up and support one another.
As the title of the message suggests, it is important to keep in mind Paul's message to the Ephesians, “We are members one of another.” Pope Francis encourages each of us when he writes, "[When online] we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter, and under the impetus of God’s love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it.”
For the Pope's full World Communications Day message, click here.