This coming Sunday, 17 May 2015, we celebrate the 49th World Communications Sunday. To mark the event, I’m sharing here my talk on Animating Communities thru Social Media which was held last year, 27 September 2014, at Don Bosco Technical Institute in Makati City when the FIN Province held an assembly on social communications.
Wrapping up our novitiate in 2007, we were given this requirement entitled “Do something Salesian.” The gist of the project is this: We are to choose any endeavor that is connected with the Salesian ministry. A batch of novices before us chose to reinforce its presence in the Sunday oratory; one novice resolved to do the first approach. Another one chose to establish a youth group he called Lawaan Angels.
I chose something which was a bit different: for one whole month, I wrote letters—just short letters—to our alumni whom I taught in Canlubang—asking them how were they doing, when were they graduating; inquiring from them what happened to so and so, etc.
Eventually, I tried to expand my “Do something Salesian Project” by preparing a testimonial for them in Friendster, and making myself available to everyone in Yahoo Messenger.
I was able to use a print screen of my notes to them since we’re asked to record it day-after-day. Most notes received replies, very few did not.
I was asked to share my story on how I serve the Church and the Good News through the media, but I am not sure if my way is a way to proclaim God’s Word in cyberspace. What I am sure about is this: In order to win the love of the young people, Don Bosco used the same method in his own context: a whisper in the ear.
Don Bosco was fond of making the first approach, of meeting the young people where they were, with a view of teaching them, in order to lead them to a higher place.
I opened my Facebook account when I was in the postnovitiate. My six years of using it and being in it afford me to see the world from two perspectives.
FB has become a window for me. Stepping into this world has allowed me to become familiar with the common people’s language, videos, music, images which trend within my virtual wall but outside my physical confines.
FB allows me to zoom in to be more familiar with persons. It gets me to be acquainted to people by the posts they like and share. It gives me an inkling whether the person before me is into gardening, a devotee of Padre Pio, or a yellowed citizen of the republic.
The world of FB can be likened to a holding room, an antechamber, which leads me to meet and interact with young people and even confreres first here in the cyberspace, before I get to finally see them in the real world.
I am relatively new to Instagram. It’s a channel of social media which has revolutionized the sharing of photos. By opening an account just last year, I have been able to capture “the best moments of life in simple things I see around me.”
And by “things,” I mean, people, events, activities in my world which I would like to share with the world outside. It makes me share with the world the beauty of just being alive, the greatness of interacting with people, the great feeling of how good it is to be a Salesian.
It is interesting to see how my photos of the images of the saints have gradually attracted my ‘followers.’ I can fairly say that the world of Instagram is a breeding ground where we can invite the young to foster and celebrate our faith.
Twitter is one social media channel which limits each message to just 140 characters, but it challenges its users to be very creative. I see Twitter comparable to the goodnight talk of the Salesians which ideally lasts for under three minutes.
I use Twitter as a prodding device to get to people I need to reach. For example, I was able to get in touch with three authors whose advice I needed badly. Without falling in line, and in just one tweet, all of them replied to my query and shared their expertise on the matter I was asking.
I’ve been using Twitter to announce having posted something in my blog which could interest them; to prod people; to provoke them with an idea, to inspire … the list is infinite!
I’ve been into blogging since 2006. I was an aspirant back then. And we were reviving the InsideOut, Don Bosco Seminary’s official publication. I recall that our circulation was just about 200—enough copies to be given away to our parents, benefactors, and Salesian settings which have their aspirants in Canlubang.
I used my blog as a receptacle of my opinion columns so that others who were not able to receive our InsideOut issue could still read them. The last time I checked, my blog has registered 33,570 visits.
In the novitiate, we were asked to summarize a volume of the Biographical Memoirs, print it so that we could put it in the library. But I told myself, “Who would ever read my summary in this library? They might as well go to the original source instead.” And so, I asked the permission of my Salesianity professor if I could upload my summaries in the net, and create a blog just for it.
My endeavor in social media is not something I do alone. Since I know that there are confreres who excel in lay out, I ask for help. For example, since June of this year, I started to share my Sunday Gospel reflections through my blog. To make my article call the attention of young people, I use photos taken by confreres or Sunday Gospel memes prepared by them.
With these, I might not be fully doing the task of evangelization, but I am sure that through social media we offer alternatives to the rubbish that is plaguing the net.
As Menardi, author of Theology of Social Media puts it:
Social media gives us an unprecedented entry point into people’s lives … And its theology is the heart of Catholic faith: We are all members of the Body of Christ and we need to be connected. Communication conveys information. But only through connection can we be engaged into a relationship that engages. Connection is vital to evangelization today (Menardi, 2013).
It was Palm Sunday in 1846 and Don Bosco was in a real predicament. He was told to leave the field he was renting where he held his activities for his poor young people.
Don Bosco noted that on a good day, the youngsters would reach to about 400. Sadly, that Sunday though a good one, would be unfortunately their last; he began to weep. This must have been one of the most heartrending episodes in the life of the Father and Teacher of youth. He wrote in his Memoirs: “My God, why don’t you show me where you want me to gather these children? Oh, let me know! Oh, show me what I must do!”
Will the next “Pinardi Shed” be the social media for the Salesians?
Let me hear your thoughts. Let’s dialogue: