Social Media and Digital Discipleship: The Road to Emmaus

In March 2020, the COVID 19 pandemic changed classrooms around the world.  While many students and teachers already embraced digital tools for learning, using digital tools for remote learning and ministry was a whole new ball game.  As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, so those who may have been resistant to technology integration now had to quickly master new skills to stay relevant. The digital world now has the largest audience in history, making online communities not only vital to academic success but also one of the most effective ways to promote the Gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ. 

2020 and the Pandemic brought about many changes in our world.  One of them was the amount of time people were spending on social media.  Look at daily social media usage from 2018 and 2019 and imagine how the numbers have increased over the last year. 

  • 88% of teens and young adults use social media 

  • 79% of college graduates use at least 1 social media platform a day 

  • 60% of people with a high school diploma use social media 

 

Anyone who characterized social media as a problem in the past, now has to admit it is also rich with opportunity for evangelization and catechesis.  Keeping these statistics in mind, you can conclude that your students will become effective digital disciples merely by teaching them to effectively engage in the world they are already in.  

Ways to connect digital tools with faith formation.

  1. Lead by example – Witness respectful treatment of others in digital spaces.  Resist the urge to blast someone for differences of opinion.  Represent the loving teachings of Jesus Christ on social media the same way as you would face to face.

  2. Curate tools for faith formation – A list of apps, resources or sites where students and their families can go to learn more about their faith, or assist in deepening their prayer life is a great place to start.

  3. Promote student expression – One of the stigmas of social media is people fearing saying the “wrong” thing.  This also trickles into faith life.  Help students feel comfortable in their knowledge and ability to talk about their faith in digital spaces.

  4. Connect safety with theology – We should not just tell students behaviors to avoid getting in trouble, but connect them with Catholic teachings such as respect, human dignity,  morality and social justice.

  5. Create communities of faith – The great work you already do, deserves a digital home.  Connecting people in digital faith communities, either to replace or enhance in-person interactions will help build digital disciples.

Jesus walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They did not recognize His presence in the beginning, perhaps because He did not look like He had in the way they were used to seeing and interacting with Him.  We believe that God is present in all things, so it is our responsibility as educators and ministry leaders to walk alongside young people in their relationship with technology and social media as a tool for their faith formation as well as an example to others.

The Digital Discipleship movement is designed to align faith-based values with digital citizenship and online behavior.  With the pandemic and quick jump to virtual learning and remote work, expanding understanding of Digital Discipleship in relationship to evangelization and catechesis is more urgent than ever.

References:
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