January 30, 2015
Two years ago this month, Bishop Kagan joined the Twitter world. Two years, over 750 tweets and more than 1,350 followers (and counting), Bishop maintains his Twitter feed @VescovoDDK almost daily.
Millions of people have embraced Twitter. It's a brief, up-to-date news feed that offers a platform for communication like no other. But even Bishop Kagan had his reservations about joining. In the story in the DCA to announce his Twitter handle launch in February 2013, Bishop joked that he was shamed into joining after the Pope began tweeting. He figured if the Holy Father has a presence on Twitter, then he had better show up, too.
But isn't that the essence of why we are compelled to be on social media right there? We feel the need to show up on social media channels, because "everybody else is doing it." It seems to be the popular place to be. People who aren't there feel left out, "out of the loop," in a sense.
Why did Pope Benedict, Pope Francis and Bishop Kagan and millions of others feel the need to show up in the social media world? Simply, it's where they can reach people with their message. The Church is called to go where the people are in every age. And in this age, the people are on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. We need to be there to be part of the digital conversations that will be going on with or without the Church's voice as part of that conversation. Social media is a way to evangelize to the masses and bring others to know Christ.
Evangelization at its heart is about communication. Social media has changed the way we communicate. It's here that we express ourselves and share our experiences. Via digital media, we learn and get information. It's here we form relationships and stay in touch. People search the Internet for everything these days. They are searching for meaning, hope, love, relationships and community. The Church needs to show up when they search.
But social media doesn't come without its challenges, like everything in life. Social media is rapid and immediate. It is ever changing and often based on evoking emotion. Some might wonder how an institution like the Catholic Church, known for it's rich history and staunch commitment to tradition and doctrine could possibly find a way to influence people in this realm. It's easy to see how some people would wonder how an institution perceived as antiquated could carve out a niche in a rapidly changing environment of social media and the technological innovation that runs it.
Can the Church stir emotion in people to open thoughtful dialogue and contemplation? Is that even possible in the digital age with 140 characters or less allowed on Twitter? Facebook and Twitter are not the platforms for historical arguments and philosophical conversation. However, the Church can use these modern forms of communication to entice people to consider or gently push them along in an already-established relationship with their faith.
To get an idea of the power and simplicity of Twitter, Pope Francis tweeted three simple words on Dec. 31 to close out the year. He simply wrote, “Lord, thank you!” Now imagine his 4.93 million followers reading that all at the same time. Not to mention the 14,000 followers who retweeted that message, sharing it with countless others.
The Church's message in the digital age is the same as our mission in every age. The Pope and Bishop Kagan didn't join Twitter because it was the popular thing to do. They, like many of us, recognize it's simply a modern means of communication. It's a way to bring people to the beauty of encountering Christ. The nearly five million Twitter followers of Pope Francis hear his message so that they may feel a closer relationship with the Lord and a more direct connection to their faith through their ultimate leader.
Likewise, the 1,300+ followers of Bishop Kagan are part of a community with our brothers and sisters in Christ who make up the family of God. Bishop's regular tweets serve as a brief note to uplift and perhaps inspire. It's nothing new. It's just a new path for delivering His message. New means of communication like Twitter and Facebook are simply tools to serve the mission of the Church leading people to Jesus.
If you're on Twitter, you can follow Pope Francis at @Pontifex or Bishop Kagan at @VescovoDDK.