Pope Francis calls social media a digital highway that is "a street teeming with people who are often hurting, men and women looking for salvation or hope. By means of the internet, the Christian message can reach to the ends of the earth."
But how do we navigate that digital highway without getting lost, taking the wrong exit, or getting stuck in a huge traffic jam? How do we engage in social media without getting lost in it?
Social media can be used as a beautiful tool in the New Evangelization, but it also can suck you in, and become a huge source of distraction. When my main work involves a lot of social media interaction, it can be a challenge to not waste a lot of time browsing through Facebook and being unproductive.
I asked 10 Catholic bloggers to tell me how they navigate the internet as social media contributors with influence. They had some great things to say! Check out their responses:
Kirby Hoberg - Under Thy Roof
"I have set times for myself when I check social media, support/read other blogs, and write. I limit what platforms I use. I can only realistically keep up with Facebook and Instagram so that is what I do. Finding a community of bloggers to keep me grounded and motivated was one of the best things I ever did for developing a healthy relationship with the internet."
Caitlyn Anderson - Mrs. Andy, Anchored by Faith
"Being 21 years old, it's really hard to not get sucked into the digital culture. Especially when it comes to social media. So many of the people my age that I interact with are fueled by "likes" and 'followers', and that mindset is contagious. This is something I struggle with on a daily basis, but to refocus on what really matters I remind myself that every like/ comment/ follow means one more person saw the message I wanted to share. And if nobody responds, then I know that at least I shared that message to myself! I am constantly reminding myself of those things."
Amy Salazar - Catholic Girl Bloggin'
"When I was a kid, I used to watch my brother play baseball. Before he would step onto the field, my Grandpa would pull him aside and tell him, 'See your last name on your jersey? That’s our family name. You’re representing our family when you step on that field.' This lesson resonates with me to this day. When you present yourself as a blogger for the faith, you are a representative to others. This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect because only God is perfect, and thank God for that. It does mean that you have to be aware that eyes are on you, so what you post, how you respond to comments—whether they be positive or negative—is important. Whenever a tragedy happens or a major controversy erupts, I pray on whether I should publicly respond or not, and if I do respond, that the Lord provide me with the right words to write. If all the world’s a stage, make sure your walk matches up with your talk."
Ginny Kochis - Not So Formulaic
"It’s really hard. I keep the Litany of Humility close by and do my best to practice charity and generosity at all times. The problem with social media is that you can get caught up in the desire for fame. All that instant gratification makes it hard to keep your eyes focused on Christ."
Kimberly Cook - The Lion of Design
"The digital culture is very draining and I try to remain balanced. Even in Catholic circles there is competition and credibility due to the numbers you bring in on your site. We are still people and prone to those 7 deadly sins! I constantly remind myself that "we are called to be faithful and not successful." I write what I feel God is calling me to, and I let him do the rest.
Allison Gingras - Reconciled to You
"I have a one person in mind kind of attitude. I used to write for 'numbers' now I write for people. I hope I find topics that appeal to at least one person; and then look to connect with them in a meaningful way - either through the comments or messaging. I am blessed to do live events as well - and find the digital world gives me an amazing way to stay connected and share resources, thoughts and prayers beyond that day we've had together.
Pam Spano - Be Catholic . . . Really
"This is tough because social media can be a 'time suck' and before I know it, I've been in front of a screen for several hours! To avoid that, I try to schedule things and then just check to see if there are any comments so I can engage with the people who have commented. I also try and stay away from social media for a couple of days (especially on the weekends). When I do, I try to write, read, pray or engage in other activities."
Leslie Sholly - Life in Every Limb
"I have other demanding responsibilities that I cannot ignore (five kids and being my husband's legal assistant among them!). I've also never tried to fit into a niche, I just write with my own voice."
Anni Harry - A Beautiful Camouflaged, Mess of Life
"I’m still struggling to not get lost in it. But, too often, when I begin to feel the pull to stay online “just a little longer,” I am using that as my cue to step away. I also credit inundating my own feeds with inspiration - whether Catholic Christian or nondenominational Christian - so as to avoid getting lost in the negativity."
Kate Hendrick - Stumbling Towards Sainthood
"This is definitely an on-going struggle. One of the things I made sure of when I started my blog was to do as little blogging as possible on Sundays. Most weeks, I just click some buttons to automatically post an Instagram post. This helps me take a much-needed break but also focus on talking to God, not just talking about Him.
I also try to be cautious about what I engage in on social media. I love all the different ways to connect to people, but I avoid sharing things that are contrary to the faith. Even if I'm not talking about God in my posts, people shouldn't question if I'm Christian."