MARIKINA CITY, July 14, 2012—While extolling the vast potentials of social media in the work of evangelization, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle urged the over 400 participants of the 1st Catholic Social Media Summit to consider the possibility that the desire to accumulate an enormous number of contacts on social networking sites indicates a yearning for authentic relationships that the virtual world cannot provide.
“I wonder if this is indicative of the same longing of the human heart to be connected with others. Baka yung pagmamadali na dumami ang [Facebook] friends ay patunay… isn’t this an indication that individualism, loneliness has really crept in, and so there is a deep cry for friends? Like, ‘I cannot wait, I need you now,’” the prelate said in his talk on social media spirituality on the first day of the event.
Tagle observed that it is often young professionals and even children who seem the most savvy in the use of communications and the Web, and this, he remarked, has led him to wonder if a youth’s family situation influences his enthusiasm and the amount of time he spends on social networking sites.
“Yung mga kabataan na ang isa o parehong magulang ay wala, sila kaya ang mas gumagamit ng social networking compared to those who live in regular families? It just crossed my mind,” he mused. “Is this the cry of so many children who are left behind, who are looking for not only friends, but parents and family?”
To an audience composed of students, diocesan and parish youth ministers, young professionals, some members of the clergy and the religious, and those active in other ministries, Tagle explained the importance of authentic connections and of appreciating the real versus the virtual. He related talking with parents who casually mentioned chatting online with their children while all of them were together in the same room of the family home. The parents, he said, regarded the online conversations as just as real as face-to-face interaction.
The bishop underscored that “social networking is very much welcomed by the Church so let’s not look at this as a social enemy. There’s much good in it,” adding that it is a “means for bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to a vaster audience.” At the same time, he reminded the participants the joy in real relationships and real friendship, and the need to proclaim what Christian friendship is all about even in the digital world of “likes,” “shares” and “friend requests.”
“Take the word ‘friend’ seriously. Don’t reduce it to a mere label. Don’t use it to prove to someone else, ‘I have more friends than you,’ so it becomes more of a contest than a Christian response to be connected, to be heard to be understood, to belong,” Tagle said.
He also advised to look to Jesus in this matter because the Savior said “I no longer call you slaves, I now call you friends.”
“And if you are really a friend, you will not communicate something that will destroy the others. Strive to be able to respond to their deep needs instead of making their lives more miserable,” the prelate said.
The social media is now another venue for proclaiming what Christian friendship is all about, he said.
The 1st Catholic Social Media Summit, which revolves around the theme “Ministering Grace to this Generation” is being held at the Renaissance Convention Center in Marikina City. The two-day event is organized by Youth Pinoy, CBCP Media Office, and Catholic Media Network. (CBCP for Life)