Spreading hope and trust in today’s social media environment
AMID the turmoil that the world is facing nowadays made magnified by the endless commentary that we get in the media, whether correctly or not, the Holy Father’s message for 51stWorld Communications Day provides for us some perspectives on how we should give more priority on achieving positive solutions to society’s problems and focus less on controversies and scandals that often are the staple of news.
This is not to say that we gloss over the reality of human suffering that happen around us and elsewhere in the world. However, to be bombarded with too much “bad news” day in and day out will surely leave us numb at some point, and may create in some a feeling of hopelessness.
In the face of what is happening in our country and in other parts of the world today, the chosen theme for this year’s World Communications Day, “ ‘Fear not, I am with you’ (Is. 43:5) Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time”seems to be an answer to a prayer.
The theme is right on target given the situation we are going throughas a nation at this time. There are a lot of uncertainties that we are experiencing which also raise questions in our minds and provoke fear in our hearts. Killings, bombings, kidnappings, corruption—these are the normal reports that we get in the news nowadays. These are what we usually read in the papers, these are what we get when we surf the internet or browse through social media. These are the things that are being fed into our minds, which according to Pope Francis, echoing what St. John Cassian said, is like “a constantly grinding millstone”. So it is up to us what kind of things to feed this “constantly grinding millstone.” Either good or bad, positive or negative, uplifting or denigrating. These realities are all the more magnified by social media.
However, the theme also reassures us that God’s presence is constant in our life. “Fear not, I am with you.” This passage from the prophet Isaiah promises us that we will never be alone in our struggles in life. God is always at our side.
What counter narrative can we offer to the message that we get from social media?
The potential of social media to generate and amplify message at high speed is not only a boon but also a bane. Facebook, which has the most traffic in terms of usage compared with other social media, averages photos and other information uploads at around 300 million a day. We are aware that not all those being uploaded are wholesome. It is normal to encounter posts that are gory, inhumane, denigrating or something that promote or glorify dystopian ideas that are quite becoming popular to certain segments of social media users.
Social media offer us immense possibilities to counter the false narrative and alternative facts with positive and constructive messages. What could be more constructive than the values promoted by the Gospel? By sowing the truths of the gospel, one seed at a time, anyone can become a beacon of hope and trust.
True, a little effort may seem insignificant at first, but if there is persistence, fidelity on our part and good intention, it will gain momentum and will make a difference in someone’s life later on.
Some key points from the message of Pope Francis are worth remembering which can help us a lot when using social media, especially in the effort to promote positive messages to counter the false narratives being propagated.
First is to encourage everyone to communicate in a way that is constructive and uplifting.
I do not know if it is cultural, but it seems we are not so spontaneous in praising the good in other people, or just pointing out some positive aspects of a person. On the other hand, it is so easy to spot the negative and just as easy and quick to talk about it.
In today’s social media environment, news spread so fast and multiply so quickly as well. A lot of shaming is happening in the internet. Many times the news being spread around is false, but before it was nipped in the bud harm had already been done because it has already made the rounds all over the internet. There are also people who make a living in spreading false news and attacking people or institutions, including the Catholic Church.
It is regrettable that there are individuals who would use social media to spread false news to set their own agenda. Overtime, people come to believe false news to be true because that is what they hear and see all the time. On one hand, facts can be ignored and regarded as false, and on the other hand, lies can be accepted as real when it is consistently promoted as such.
Never allow pessimism get the upper hand
Nowadays, we hear and read so many bad news, whether natural or man made.
When we are assailed with so many bad news, there is the temptation to grow apathetic about it, isn’t it? Pope Francis says, “we have to break the vicious cycle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear that results from this constant focus on the “bad news”. He warned us not to allow the idea that “evil has no limits” to form in our head. When we are bombarded by these kind of news left and right, we will really be desensitized. But no, we should never allow ourselves to be unconcerned or indifferent in the face of human suffering or injustices that happen around us.
Focus on the Good News
We all interpret reality according on the lens we use to view it. We may all be looking on the same object but we interpret it differently, because each of us is using a different lens.
Professionals or otherwise, we are all communicators. The impact of the message we communicate will depend on how we reframe that message. Sadly, in today’s social media environment, so many negative messages are being propagated by trolls. Instead of sowing positive values, these trolls would rather sow negative and destructive information, incite anger and hatred and put down the dignity of people.
“Witnesses and communicators”
We are called to witness the Risen Jesus. We are called to be communicators of the good news that Jesus has risen. The worst that can be said about us Christians is that we don’t witness the Risen Christ.
Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus gathered his disciples and to go out into the whole world and spread the light of the gospel to everyone. As Christians, we live by that mandate. Wherever we are, whatever we do, we ought to be like a candle that diffuses light around us, beacons of hope and trust, so the darkness of evil will not prevail.