Sunday morning I followed the Pope’s twitter account (@pontifex) and I’m his 583,834 follower. That’s even before he has tweeted! When he tweets today he will speak to the people where they are – on social media. He will join religious leaders, businessmen and politicians, reaching a wide audience with only his 140 characters. He is one of the few religious leaders who have received so much media attention simply for joining the 21st century bandwagon. It all gives a new meaning to social media: one who gets the media’s attention for being social.

Twitter and Facebook are successful because of our innate desire to tell stories, to hear stories and connect the two. On both Twitter and Facebook we expect regular updates and personal stories; sound bites we can re-tweet, share and comment on using #tags and speak @ people. This means that the religious leaders also need to change the way they speak. Their sound bites need to supplement, not supplant, long theological discourse.

The religious leaders traditionally speak to the people, not with them. With religious leaders joining twitter, they are igniting conversations between the followers; not between the religious leaders and their followers. Are the religious leaders merely continuing their monologues rather than changing the way they communicate? I fear that it will be the Pope’s social media team, rather than the Pope himself, who will be having a monologue. What we will see today will be a modern step that’s likely to take a traditional approach.

A list of religious leaders on twitter can be found here: https://twitter.com/IngridHWarner/religious-leaders

For questions or comments, please email Ingrid.h.warner@leidar.com or @ingridhwarner

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