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Social media can help young people get involved in the faith, US Catholics say


When using social media, Ogechi Akalegbere, catechist and co-chair of the Pastoral Council of St. Rose of Lima Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA, believes it is wise to ensure that their contributions honestly reflect their views and are respectful of others.

Above all, Akalegbere seeks a balance in what she shares or comments on.

“The world doesn’t need to know everything about me,” she said on December 2nd during an online discussion on social media use by young adults sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington and the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University was promoted.

The program was the last in a three-part series on the subject of “Pope Francis, Youth and Solidarity: Dialogues on ‘Fratelli Tutti'”. . “

Akalegbere, 33, was one of three panelists who described their use of social media and provided advice to young adult viewers on how to make positive experiences from their interactions on the various online platforms.

They suggested that interacting with others on social media can create positive feelings, especially as the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to limit personal interactions, leading to greater isolation.

It takes us to a place where we don’t connect with people but become more isolated in the way we interact with people

They also warned that excessive use of social media can damage a person’s “mind”.

As with everything else, there are pros and cons with social media, said Vanesa Zuleta Goldberg, digital content specialist at the National Association for Catholic Youth Work and participant in the Vatican’s “Communication of Faith in the Digital World”.

Goldberg described seeing examples of young people using social media in a “balanced way that is proactive in empowering them and also raising voices that are constantly on the sidelines”.

However, she cautioned that in whatever way social media is used, it only shows “a highlight role” of a person’s experience and “the big picture” of a person is never seen online.

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Pope Francis cites the positive aspects of online interaction on social media in his encyclical, despite signaling the danger of being isolated behind a smartphone or computer screen, explained Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of Burlington, Vermont.

“The Pope’s concerns are centered on user behavior rather than the various ways digital content can be published,” said Bishop Coyne, who has had an active online presence for nearly two decades promoting church teaching and with parishioners in Keep in touch.

“The real challenges arise because digital media can lead to dark places,” he said.

“It takes us to a place where we don’t connect with people, but become more isolated in the way we interact with people. We’re not going to leave the building, ”he continued.

“His warning is that it is not enough to rely on these digital connections for meaningful human encounter. He constantly prompts and challenges us in many ways to move away from our screens or phones and move to a place where we meet. ” People, ”said the bishop.

Through such encounters in person and online, Akalegbere has succeeded in raising the voices of people who are not often heard in church or in society.

She referred to her “Tell Me if You Can” podcast, in which she shares the varied stories of women telling their success story or mastering a challenge in hopes of stimulating social change.

Akalegbere acknowledged that for millennials born between 1981 and 1996, digital media is the most important means of communication. She encouraged online viewers to learn how to use social media in a “healthy and balanced way” without dominating their lives or generating hostility and anger.

When she posts something online, Akalegbere says that she asks, “Does this respect who I am or does it respect someone else?”

She also called on people to “be open to leaving the echo chamber” when considering what to post.

I think more about taking care of the soul is something very important to me when I get involved on social media

Goldberg said her work with the Vatican opened avenues to see how social media can affect the lives of others.

She said there are 16 people in the Vatican’s “Faith Communication in the Digital World” program; they’re in their 20s and 30s. The program enabled participants to hear how social media “has captured their local parish in different ways through culture, language and pastoral approaches”.

The conversations enabled participants from around the world to understand that social media cannot be ignored or dismissed, but rather see the numerous online platforms as a means to engage their beliefs.

That commitment has guided Bishop Coynes’ use of social media. He recently unveiled an online video series called “Coffee with Bishop Coyne,” which explores Church life in Vermont in the United States and around the world.

“I think caring for the soul is very important to me when I use social media,” said the bishop. “(I) try to help other people to get to know the Lord Jesus as I know him in the Catholic Church. To love him, to serve him with all my heart and to help them find a way to him too.”

He also suggested that “if a young person is constantly on the phone or the iPad or whatever they’re doing, we who are older and smarter could encourage them to realize that this is not the be-all and end-all of existence.” . “

Each panelist kept coming back to the importance of getting others personally involved as much as possible in order to build community and understanding.

Goldberg agreed, saying, “Social media is a great place, but it’s also a limited space.”

“All of us, putting all our eggs in these baskets, are limiting ourselves,” she said. “It limits the accountability we can take for ourselves and the level of accountability we can ask for other people. We have to interact with people on other platforms and other spaces, hopefully personally, to have this whole experience of my humanity interacting with your humanity. “

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