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Social Media: Personal and Church Use

This is very much a personal statement from Fr Gregory. Bear that in mind when you read please. I am not counselling anyone to do or not do anything, except to stay safe.

Social media has many positive aspects and it can be a great way to share ideas and to keep in touch with people. I would want to encourage those of you who use it to good effect to continue to do so. OK, now the precautionary message! Social media also has its darker side. No matter how tech savvy and alert you may consider yourself to be, there are very sophisticated fake messages out there right now that are proving increasingly successful in manipulating you into offering up your data to people with ill intent. Do visit this page to be better informed on how to keep yourself and your family safe (linked in the image above).

I consider myself to be alert to these issues but I was the victim of a hack recently into my Facebook account. I could have simply scrubbed clean and carried on; but I decided not to do so. I deleted my Facebook account. My reasons for so doing include another aspect of social media, even more troubling.

Quite aside from the narcissism of taking endless photos of yourself, your friends and your last meal, also perhaps sharing videos of cute dogs doing tricks and getting grumpy at the political views of others; there is a more sinister side to social media: click bait and scroll junkies. Social media platforms design the information and graphics displayed in accordance with your likes, dislikes and online behaviour. This has one primary objective: to keep you on the page or site, for data collection of course and profit.

Recently I noticed, that although I mainly posted interesting articles and comments on Facebook, I was spending too much time doing this; returning to read comments and scrolling down for that next titbit of information or that next funny graphic. I was getting just too much dopamine reward inside my head for doing this. It had to stop; so I cut out this soft but hardening addictive behaviour. I unceremoniously dumped Facebook! - complete with my over 3,000 "friends". However, I also deactivated all the other church related parish Facebook pages I had set up as well - except the YouTube channels where comments and discussion are disabled. I had other reasons for doing this, leading to my final point.

Facebook is increasingly "old hat" - a platform for the middle aged and seniors, but not for the young. Apparently many young people now call it "Boomerbook" - after the Baby Boomer post war generation (me included), Mark Zuckerberg of course knows that he is losing young people in their droves from Facebook ; which is why, very cannily, he has rebranded the company "Meta" and switched his focus to VR simulation and other, doubtless, AI orientated projects.

All the statistics show that the young are now to be found on Snapchat and TikTok, not Facebook. However, the same fate that has befallen Facebook will, I predict, apply soon enough to all the other social media platforms. I do not want to get stuck in the ephemera of such media anymore; especially since these media have more or less ceased to be a message medium for the preaching of the gospel. Instead they have turned into mere mirrors and echo chambers, shallow ponds in which to paddle, not the waters of the deep into which we are to cast our nets.

I started by saying that this is very much and only my view. If social media brings you true happiness, carry on with my blessing; but if it doesn't, ask yourself a question: "should I be here?"

Fr Gregory


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