Many years ago, before the advent of the Internet and of social media platforms, I kept a snail-mail correspondence with a number of pen-pals that I had known through pen-pal forums in magazines. There was a certain romantic idea of keeping a far-reaching correspondence and receiving letters in the post. As the years went by, and busy-ness took over and some of us moved into jobs or out of our former residences, I lost touch with these pen-pals. So I was actually pleasantly surprised when after I had set up my Facebook account in 2009, a former pen-pal touched base with me, as she had managed to find my profile.

With the proliferation of social media comes an exciting time of connectivity that was previously not feasible. While these social media platforms have resulted in a boon in communications, there is a dark side to these as well. For example, in South Korea recently in the news, a Telegram group was shut down as a chat room for unsavoury and pornographic activities, and the founders and members of the group were arrested. While on Tiktok another popular platform with the young, there have been reports of sexual predators and inappropriate content.

The key then, as a Church, and a people of God, is to be vigilant and to reclaim these social media platforms as effective means to communicate the hope and truth of Christ.

For example, Fr. Jose Emmanuel Arroyo-Acevedo, a priest who was ordained only last year from Michiana, Indiana, recognised that there was a lot of inappropriate content on social media platforms that the young had practically unrestricted access to. He has been using Tiktok to outreach to his students in isolation and as a means of wholesome entertainment. Insofar, his media strategy has proven effective. Sharing videos of his dance moves and backflips, and of silly songs teaching Catechism on his Tiktok channel, Fr Jose has amassed up to 12,000 followers.

Thanks to Social Media, we are now networked to thousands and millions of people out there on the globe. However, Social Media is underutilised by the Church. It is used generally for updates of events and announcements, but within Social Media is the powerful potential for the deep and profound spiritual conversations that the human heart is yearning for.

There are three dimensions of Social Media as a place or site for a Christ-connection as writer Bryony Taylor proposes and that which I have expanded upon:

1) Social Media has the potential to become another Damascus – people are looking for meaning and conversion.

2) Social Media can be seen as another Emmaus – people are looking to embark on a journey of self-actualisation and realisation, with God walking besides them. This is where the spiritual conversation happens.

3) Social Media is the place where St. Paul disembarks at Athens – People are looking for engagement, conviction, intellectual discourse, and friendship with one another.

Why Social Media as an Outreach Tool for Evangelisation?

Social Media is extremely relevant. It empowers people to share their authentic voices. Due to the demographic it services, social media also connects very strongly with a younger congregation. Social Media Evangelism occurs when the platform is utilised to open-up faith-based discussions through shareable content.

By Brian Bartholomew Tan