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Seminar on digital communications at the Vatican

Seminar on digital communications at the Vatican

Rome, July, 3rd 2017 (Vatican Radio) How to be engaging on social media. How to build relationships beyond our own virtual world. How to rebuild trust through an authentic online presence. Those questions were at the heart of a seminar at Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross university, focused on the theme ‘Communicating in the Digital Culture’. Organised by the British embassy to the Holy See, the encounter featured presentations by two well-known speakers, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Civiltà Cattolica journal, and the former British ambassador to Lebanon, Tom Fletcher, now a professor of international relations at New York University. Love them or hate them, social media sites are an important part of daily life for a large part of the global population. So much so, that Fr Spadaro insists it’s no longer possible to talk about pastoral work without understanding what goes on in the digital world. Pope Francis’s social media accounts are currently among the most influential of all world leaders, with over 33 million followers on Twitter and over four million on his more recent Instagram profile. Communicating the Gospel of Mercy This clearly offers huge opportunities to communicate “the Gospel of Mercy to all peoples and cultures”, as the pope himself puts it. Yet Fr Spadaro notes it also raises new challenges about how we engage people effectively in this new digital environment. Asking the right questions We live in world of search engines, he says, where “everything has an answer” yet we are losing sight of the important questions in life. The best way forward, he goes on, is not to “consider the Gospel itself as a book of answers, but as a book of questions”. Sometimes, he says, “the Church […]is answering questions that no one is interested in” so we have to recover the ability to discern which are the important questions for our life today. Breaking out of the filter bubble Secondly, he notes how digital technology filters the results of our searches, so that “in the end, our world is shrinking so we are caged in a kind of filter bubble” in which “we’re always in touch with people who think  like us”. We have to break out of this bubble, he says, by being curious and posing the right questions. Creating relationships Thirdly, Fr Spadaro says, we have to realise that communicating no longer means broadcasting, but rather it means sharing in a way that “each one of us is involved”. If we post on Facebook, he explains, we don't just share a content, but we communicate ourselves, becoming witnesses and creating relationships – if we don't create relationships, he says, “we can’t spread the Gospel”. For the diplomatic world too, Professor Tom Fletcher believes that social media sites are the best tool for building trust to promote coexistence and cooperation. Promoting coexistence The “big dividing line of the 21st century”, he says, “is between people who believe in coexistence” across different faiths, communities and nationalities, and “people who don’t, the people who believe that the answer to the 21st century is just a bigger wall”. Rules of engagement Fletcher spells out his three basic rules of engagement in the digital world: firstly, he says, “it’s really important to be authentic”, secondly, “always try to be engaging” by creating “new interesting content”, and thirdly, “be purposeful”, which, for him, means both promoting national interests, but also promoting partnership and collaboration between people. Don't leave space to extremists Fletcher urges everyone to “take the plunge” into social media because “if we leave this space to extremists, but also to those who are basically apathetic or cynical”,  there is “a real risk of the next generation only hearing their voices”. The “silent majority tend to be outshouted”, he concludes, “so we need to hear more from the coexisters”.  
WhatsApp is becoming a top news source in some countries

WhatsApp is becoming a top news source in some countries

USA, June, 30th, 2017 (Endgadget). WhatsApp might not be all that popular in the US, but in some places, it's fast becoming a place where people can safely share and get the latest news. According to a study conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, more and more people are beginning to rely on the messaging service instead of on its parent company, Facebook, for news. Sure, 47 percent of the survey's 71,805 respondents from 36 countries still go to the social network to find out what's happening in the world. But the percentage of people using Facebook for news has dropped in more than half of the 36 countries compared to last year. Next to 47 percent, the percentage (15) of respondents who said they use WhatsApp to get the latest in current affairs sounds positively tiny. However, when divided by country, the app's numbers become much more impressive: Over half of the Malaysian and 46 percent of the Brazilian participants said they use WhatsApp for news. The service seems to be especially popular in Chile, Singapore, Hong Kong, Spain and Turkey, as well. But why exactly are people beginning to turn to the chat app when they want to see what's new? To start with, some carriers in those countries bundle free WhatsApp access with mobile subscriptions. The study says it also helps that the service has end-to-end encryption, making it more appealing to places like Hong Kong and Turkey, where it's dangerous to voice out anti-government sentiments. In addition, Facebook's reputation recently took a beating, since it waited a long time before it even started conjuring up solutions to combat all the fake news shared on the social network.