I just got back from Chicago after spending the weekend with our sisters in Alexandria, VA. They graciously provided a car for me to get to Baltimore. (Little did I realize that entailed getting past the thousands of purple-clad fans who were streaming to the stadium!) I went to take part in a conversation between bishops and bloggers, and many of the leading lights of Catholic blogdom were present.
The meeting was a prelude to the bishop's semi-annual meeting (which begins today, and which you can follow live on EWTN), and was meant to give the bishops a chance to get the first results of a study they had commissioned on Catholics and social media, and to meet with some enthusiastic, informed and dedicated Catholics who are involved in social media as Catholics, and to allow those same enthusiastic, informed and dedicated Catholics to meet the bishops.
Here's an interesting fact from the study: 31% of Catholics who use social media wish their pastor or bishop would blog. (Are you one of those? What kind of content would you actually follow, read and share?)
Here's another interesting bit of info: The two most trusted sources of information on church matters are (in this order) parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers. Even though print is losing "market share" to digital media every day, it still carries more weight, even with young adults. You know what else carries weight with young adults? Word of mouth. (I am guessing text messages and other personal digital messages are in that category, but I haven't read that part of the study yet.)
I think the most beautiful thing I heard all day was in answer to Brandon Vogt's question (the bishops had their "Questions for Bloggers" session, and then the bloggers had their "Questions for Bishops"). Vogt's question to the bishops was "What is it you fear the most about social media?" And a response came from someone on the USCCB staff (I was in the back and couldn't always understand who was speaking). Anyway, that person said, "The bishops want to respond to every single communication, and they can't figure out how to do that in a timely manner, so they get overwhelmed." I was moved by that: that the bishops want to be engaged with the people, but--as one bishop commented--it won't just be people in their diocese who respond to their blog posts or tweets. (That would be overwhelming.)
I was also reminded by bishops in rural areas that their parishes and parishioners don't have the high speed Internet access that seems so ubiquitous. Nope. In parts of Missouri (never mind Alaska!), the parishes don't even want images sent with email: it takes too long to download.
You can follow the action by going to twitter.com/search/%23bspblog (as I type this, their assembly is in fully swing, and Bishop Sample of Marquette MI is live tweeting, using #usccb12 !) In fact, here you can follow my growing list of Catholic bishops on Twitter: https://twitter.com/nunblogger/catholic-bishops
Or you can read the Catholic News Service write-up (which even mentions yours truly): http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1204754.htm