Good Samaritan offers inspiration for those who "inhabit" social media
"Towards Full Presence" is the title of a document released by the Dicastery for Communication that offers a pastoral reflection on people's engagement in the digital world. The publication aims to generate a dialogue on how to make this ecosystem more human. #FullyPresent.
"Towards Full Presence. A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media" (#FullyPresent) is the title of the document published by the Dicastery for Communication on Monday 29 May. The aim of the document is to promote a common reflection on the involvement of Christians in social media, which have increasingly become part of people's lives. Inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan, the document offers an opportunity to begin a shared reflection on how to promote a culture of being "loving neighbours" also in the digital world.
Looking at the theme within the context of the world of social media, where individuals are often both consumers and commodities, the pastoral reflection seeks a faith-based response. And this response begins with discerning the stimuli we receive and with intentional listening. Attention, together with a sense of belonging, reciprocity and solidarity, are key for creating a sense of unity that should ultimately strengthen local communities, enabling them to become drivers of change. By becoming "weavers of communion" through the creativity of love, we can imagine new models built on trust, transparency, equality, and inclusion, learning to be present in God's style and bearing witness.
Beware of pitfalls on the "digital highways"
The digital revolution has certainly created opportunities, but it also presents many challenges. The document identifies several pitfalls to avoid as we travel the "digital highways." From treatment of individual users as only consumers and commodities, to the creation of "individualistic spaces" that target like-minded people or encourage extreme behaviour, the journey through the online environment is one where many have been marginalised and wounded. For Christians, this raises the question: how can we make the digital ecosystem a place of sharing, collaboration and belonging, based on mutual trust?
From awareness to real encounter
Becoming a "neighbour" in the social media environment begins with a disposition to listen with the awareness that those whom we meet online are real people. Even in an environment characterised by "information overload," this openness to intentional listening and of the heart allows us to move from mere perception of the other to an authentic encounter. We can begin to recognise our digital neighbour, realising that their suffering affects us. Our goal then is to build not only "connections," but encounters that become real relationships and strengthen local communities.
From encounter to community
In our journey along the "digital highways," we can meet others either with a spirit of indifferent bystanders or with a spirit of encouragement and friendship. In the latter case, we - who are sometimes the good Samaritan and sometimes the wounded - can begin to help heal the wounds created by a toxic digital environment. Here we need to rebuild digital spaces so that they become more human and healthier environments. At the same time, we can help make these environments more capable of fostering real communities, based on a person-to-person encounter that is indispensable for those who believe in the Word made flesh.
A distinctive style
Christians bring to social media a distinctive "style," one of sharing that has its origin in Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us with his words, actions, soul and body. He taught us that truth is revealed in communion and that communication also springs from communion, that is, from love. The presence of Christians in digital media should reflect this style that communicates truthful information in a creative way, one that springs from friendship and builds community. This style often makes use of stories. It will bring to bear its influence online in a responsible way, as Christians become "weavers of communion." It will be reflective, not reactive, and it will be active in fostering activities and initiatives that promote human dignity. It will also be helping us to open our hearts and welcome our brothers and sisters.
Witness in the digital world
The presence of Christians in social media will also bear the mark of witness. Christians are not there to sell a product or proselytise, but rather to bear witness. They are there to confirm with their words and their lives what God has done by creating a communion that unites us in Christ. Whether Christians may find themselves the wounded or the Good Samaritan, or both, their engagement on social media platforms can be encounters with neighbours, brothers and sisters, whose lives concerns them and, therefore, encounters with the Lord. In this way, communication offers a glimpse of the communion that is rooted in the Holy Trinity, our true "promised land."