How Social Media May Shape A Conclave, And A Future Pontiff
Doug Bernard | Washington DC
As you read this, the doors to the Sistine Chapel are likely locked and sealed with wax and a ribbon. The conclave of the Roman Catholic Church is underway, and for the moment, the world’s most-watched communications device is…a stove pipe and a cloud of smoke.
Although the last conclave was just in 2005, this is arguably the first in the era of ascendent social media. Last time around, Facebook was only a year old, with a very limited membership base and primitive communications abilities; Twitter was at least a year away and Google+ still on the drawing boards.
It’s an odd pairing of technologies; with the world wide web of computers and mobile phones and a billion cameras ready to upload to YouTube on one side, and a relatively rickety tin stove pipe and a handful of chemicals down below designed to color smoke black or white.
However archaic the conclave communication, there is no doubting that the nest Roman Catholic pontiff and his hand-picked leadership will not be able to ignore social media once a new pope is chosen.
The last pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, was the first to have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, even though they were little more than holding places. Our current technologies allow for the immediate transfer of information and images from nearly any point on the globe to any other. And that’s just what we have now – who knows what “new thing” will be popping 1o years from now.
The point is, the Roman Catholic church – perhaps the world’s first fully global entity – is going to have to become much better at using and integrating with social media.
Just what will that look like? We have a few guesses, but we’d really like to hear from you.
What do you think the Church should do to better use social media? How should it integrate services such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud at the host of others to best serve its membership? Are there some things the Church should avoid? Or do you even feel social media is necessary for the Church in the 21st Century?