Social Media Blog-alogue: First Question

Meredith,I’m inspired by your passionate interest in social media, and I’m looking forward to learning about it.  We’ll be doing this blog-alogue periodically over the next month or two.  Let’s get started.So — I think I’m a web savvy guy.  I blog.  I’m on the internet all day.  I use the web for news, music, entertainment, all kinds of information.  I use Skype to talk to my kids in other states.  I read books on my Kindle.  Now people are saying I need to get up to speed with social media.  What are they talking about?Jim



I’m delighted to be having this conversation here.  I love how you characterize me as passionate about social media. That, I am!

My adventures with these online technologies began long before they were called social media. Back in 1993, I was actively involved with a community that gathered on Compuserve to provide information and support to one another about health. (I wasn’t the only one, but certainly one of the few talking about faith and healing, but that’s another story.)

Fast forward to 2007 — the year I launched my personal blog. I quickly added LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to the mix. These days I maintain accounts on quite a few social networking platforms, some I use a lot; others not so much. Some accounts are for me; others for groups or organizations. Much has changed in five years, often too quickly to track in real time. (Let’s talk about what happens to conventional notions of time online.)

The technology has changed and so has the culture of engagement. As a sociologist, I’m forever fascinated by the socio-cultural dimensions and dynamics of social media. As a person of faith, I’m excited what social media makes possible for Christians in general and Catholic Christians in particular.

So much for preamble.

You ask, “what are they talking about?”  I say, “it depends on who tells you to get up to speed.”  When I implore web-savvy people to get involved with social media, I first want to make sure our conversation is grounded in this definition:

Social media are online (or digital) technologies (or platforms) that can be used to generate and sustain conversation and build community. Social media is also used to “broadcast”  information.

Next, to move the conversation forward, I ask folks to do these things from the get-go:

  • know that digital, online social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube) are tools.
  • realize these tools need to be used along with — and do not necessarily replace — print and face-to-face communication.
  • be open to seeing how social media transforms individuals into groups, and groups into communities.
  • understand the digital revolution has already taken place and social media is here to stay.

For me, getting “up to speed” must take place at: 1)  the practical level of learning how to install and use social media platforms without freaking; and 2) the conceptual level of understanding why to use social media platforms, especially as a means to see, know, and reveal God in all things.

No shortage of fine resources explaining how to get started, so at this tipping-tipping-tipped point in time, I’m fiercely committed to discussing the why to, especially for those who love and serve God.  AMDG!



  1. Social media is just a means. it’s really up to me or us how to control our use of it. I don’t want to justify my own liking for it because actually I can communicate more with the outside world by it, be more linked with a bigger community and even help out through this. And yet, I need to really check out if my inner motivations this lent, just the other day ” freedom” is the topic this lent and I can appreciate more social media if I can be more aware of how it controls or helps my inner life this lent. Thanks Ms. Meredith for the post. Actually, I love your blogs…

  2. No TV here either, it upsets my writer hormones, ha. Yes FB is great for keeping in touch but I usually don’t do groups so this is relatively new for me. You have a great week too — back to work for the serf here.

  3. Hi, All. I’m interested in how social media can be used for justice making… and since I am late to this conversation & won’t be able to devote time to it until my weekend starts on Friday… I just wanted to mention my interest in case some of you are still looking at this thread on the weekend! I was intrigued by the few posts I skimmed & look forward to the possibility of networking with you tomorrow! God bless, Sara

  4. Most of my friends are way younger than I, which is why I don’t compartmentalize. This is going to be fun and effective, I can tell already.

  5. You most certainly did, thanks Meredith. I refuse to take part in anything that tries to put me into a specific age/gender group — believe it or not we still look at a person’s age/gender and make a judgement accordingly. Imagine.
    Yes we must communicate faith through every means.

      • Agree! And I’ve seen how participating in social media has generated community and individual action in the world away from the screen.
        Also: social media is stunningly democratizing on many levels, age and gender being prime examples. Many of my closest and dearest friends and colleagues found via social media are decades-younger than I. By the time that info comes out, we’re already in cahoots!

  6. Oh! THIS blog, here! No target age group. Target group: anyone interested in or even (especially?) those resistant to and fearful of social media. The data now rolling in are showing that Facebook is capturing the age mid-40-50+ age group. Twitter seems to appeal to 30-somethings. Pinterest appealing to women of all ages.
    As a social media evangelist, I believe these tools can be used (often in conjunction with other means of communicating faith) by everyone. Did I answer your question? Hope so!

  7. Meredith and Jim, I’m looking forward to seeing how this conversation develops as you dip into it over the upcoming weeks. Blogs, too, are a form of social media, so this seems a perfect place to discuss where Ignatian spirituality and social media tools meet.

    • Amen, amen. Probably too tech-esoteric and off-topic for here but I sometimes wonder why, when talking about social media, people usually invoke the trinity of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and tend to exclude blogs. Weird, in my (rarely) humble opinion.

        • Having started out as an essayist and book reviewer for magazines, I immediately fell in love with blogging…especially as the magazine markets went kaput. But I also love Twitter because it’s “micro-blogging” and very short copy suits me at times. I use LinkedIn as a virtual resume.

  8. Meredith –
    Thrilled to see this effort underway!!!!!!
    First off, I just wanted to mention your book because I think it will be useful reading as a framework for readers here to understand your overall communications framework which is based on your actual experience, not just an outsider theorizing:
    For those who have not read your book, “The Word Made Fresh” please go get a copy or three! It is not only a terrific primer on internal Church communications but also an delightful read.
    I’m looking forward to many interesting discussions here on the Church and social media.
    One last comment: Love, love, love the fact that you are “fiercely committed to discussing the why to, especially for those who love and serve God!”
    Yes! Before we can get to the how, it is so critical that the Church understand the why so that we can overcome our fear of the unknown.
    “Duc in altum! ”
    Hugh Macken

    • Wow…thanks! For folks reading comments, Hugh Macken founded the Association for Catholic Exploring Social Media group on LinkedIn and is a great source of Catholic content on Twitter as @catholicsme.

      • Meredith, do you have a “target market” aka specific age group in mind for this blog community or does it focus solely on Catholicity?

        • Linda…not sure I’m following the question because the LinkedIn group is not a blog community. It’s a group of more than 300 professionals from a variety of industries who are also Catholic and interested in social media.
          On Twitter, folks interested in using social media for church and faith (not necessarily Catholic) follow @chsocm and use the hashtag #chsocm to tag content and conversation about church social media. Some people add #cathmedia to further specify Catholic content. There’s also a #chsocm blog.
          Age of the target market (i.e. people of faith using social media) for both groups is all over the place.

          • Your blog right here this page. Is there an age group, a target market, it is geared to (such as Vinita’s DDF for example).

        • Linda, I think Meredith answered your question about the “target” for the posts on social media and spirituality. More broadly, the dotMagis blog is for anyone interested in Ignatian spirituality and finding God in all things.

  9. Slept in until nearly 10:00 and woke up to find all these great comments! Friends, I am going to tend to morning self-ministrations and then respond to these one-by-one. Very very grateful to see a robust conversation emerging already.

  10. Congrats Meredith .I look forward to the discussions and your insights this week – laced with some of your humour which is always worth reading !
    One question : what are your views on boundaries in online media?

  11. Dear Meridith….. Yes Social Media is very new, especially in the Philippine Catholic church -scenario. I still struggle reading through voluminous statements from the official ” church ” of statements which because of sheer length, nobody wants to read. there are also good priest friends who are attempting to learn and adopt. And I want to be able to help them. Please comment on how priests, for that matter Bishops , can keep their personal blogs or postings interesting and relevant for “proper evangelization ” And shouldnt they keep their official blogs as “priests” different or distinct from their ” purely personal ones. And for that matter should priests maintain a personal vs. an official site??? Some priests are okay “official wise” but they keep their personal blogs open – and here is where they are very prone to posting – ” not proper ” or even “scandalous ” and ” too- personal” or private statements that detract from their position as “ministers- after the Lord’s heart, so to speak! And how do we (laypeople ) confront erring priests????

    • There are some priests here in the Philippines who also make good use of social media. Have you checked out Archbishop Tagle’s weekly Mass reading homilies on “The Word Exposed” every Sunday? He posts them on his Facebook account and on Youtube. Some Jesuit priests also post their homilies once in a while. I have to admit my knowledge of priests using social media here is limited to them though.

      • Elizabeth and Maria,
        In my book, The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today, I make the distinction between “privacy” and “secrecy.” This is an historically dicey topic within our church.
        That book was published in 2009. And while I hold to what I wrote, it’s also clear that online technology in general and social media especially has near-completely reconfigured notions of what’s public and what’s private — and what should be. Be assured this is a topic I’ll write about here.
        I also plan to write about the challenge of wading through voluminous church documents that, as you point out, nobody wants to read. Most people don’t want to read them because they cannot read them — dense, arcane language, etc.
        I’m one of those crazy people who does read them and can tell you there are some brilliance gems embedded within the many documents about “social communications.” I’ll be highlighting some of those in posts here on dotMagis.

    • Just like we confront anyone else — a priest is still a mortal male despite his ordination and so he is going to be prone to human “stuff” just like the rest of us!
      Actually I prefer correction to confrontation. Questions.
      What do you think?

      • This reply did not follow in sequence to the post before it re: Elizabeth’s question: ” … how do we (laypeople ) confront erring priests????”

  12. Brava, Meredith, brava! And thank you Jim and others at Loyola Press for having this forum available here this week.
    I too am passionate about social media ministry, as Meredith knows. I am not as savvy as she is, but I continue to pour myself into this work every day.
    That said, I often remind myself of the prophet words from Jeremiah, chapter 20, when I think of my social media ministry… “You seduced me Lord, and I let myself be seduced.” I often feel frustration, and disappointment comes in waves – as Meredith knows, having heard me kvetch (she and I have much in common!) endlessly about obstacles and barriers.
    Yet, like one of those toys that I used to have as a kid, that when punched, it would bounce back up again, I carry on. I mean – where else would I go?
    Looking forward to more of this! Thank you, thank you.
    PS – I’m not sure where you are going with all of this and I hope that amidst discussions of technology and so forth, we can also discuss how community forms online and what happens – or does not- as a result.

    • First comment from you, Fran . . . a no surprise blessing! Our plan is to start with the blog-alogue as a way to highlight basic issues and concerns. After that, our/my big plan is to focus my dotMagis posts on social media.
      No shortage of resources for learning how to use these tools, so my plan is to focus using social media to create, build, and sustain community. What happens — or does not — as a result raises many challenges for people of faith who strive to be people for others.
      The conversation will unfold over time here. The questions you and others ask deserve dedicated posts. I’m looking forward to writing them!


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