01/09/2013 20:25

DWU Symposium on Social Media in PNG

30 AUG 2013

By Fr. Giorgio Licini PIME  - Chaplain, DWU/Secretary, CBC Social Communications

A digital migrant on Social Media

I am glad to participate in this sharing though I cannot certainly consider myself an expert on the issue of Social Networks. People in their mid fifties, like myself, are at the best digital migrants, trying to understand the Internet revolution and at least partially participate and avail of it. It was not me to create my own Facebook profile, but a young person whom I met at a media conference in May 2011. Immediately I noticed that a good number of young people were noticing my presence on the social network and were asking for friendship. The first were youth and students I was close to during my previous parish assignment in the Philippines in 1995-2002. After so many years I thought I would never meet and hear from them again for the rest of my life. Instead, here they were, coming up one by one, some working and living abroad, all with a family of their own, most of them mature professionals now in their late twenties or early thirties.  Then came the young people from the parish in Port Moresby (St’ John’s – Tokarara) where I stayed from 2006 to 2011. They are a younger generation, a good number of whom, compared to the more adult Filipino friends, on line use a name different or distorted, not the same they have in daily life. The latest small wave of friends are Divine Word University (DWU) students, though, again, not all of them are known to me here in campus by the name and the photo they use online. Since the group of Facebook friends built up from the start mainly as a group of young people, I only ACCEPT requests for friendship; I do not forward any myself. Though my activity on Facebook is quite limited, I find it very helpful, interesting, and rewarding to be in touch and sometimes advise, encourage, listen to people who have a so high degree of positive experiences to share on line: studies, job experiences, family life, travels, deaths of relatives and friends, sports, etc. I only wish I had more time to comment on their posts, sometimes congratulate and encourage them, make myself more present in their lives by the simple click of a “Like” or some more chatting time.

Sharing information

People on Facebook also promote a business, share music and videos, have other interests… I share information in connection with one of my two jobs. In fact, while I am Chaplain for DWU, I am also Secretary of the Commission on Social Communications of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands (CBC). In this position I am focusing at the moment on information and news writing. For the Catholic Bishops Conference this information service was confined in the past to the monthly Catholic Reporter (a small insert of the Wantok Niuspepa). This is still being published the first Thursday of every month, but the same information comes first on a daily basis on the front page of the CBC website (www.cbcpngsi.org) and on a Facebook Page I have created: Catholic Information Papua New Guinea. Both the website and the Faceboof page do not receive yet a particularly high number of hits, but they carry the information into the web allowing it to be replicated in another number of news websites, blogs, discussion forums, etc.

Advocacy and debate

Since I am interested and I work in PNG information, especially from the Catholic Church point of view, I also participate at times in public debates in blogs and Facebook pages which deal with current issues. Again, due to limited time, as far as PNG is concerned I limit myself to the Facebook PNG News Page which has now more than 12.000 members. I find it a big jump ahead this opportunity, virtually for all citizens, to participate in public debates via the Social Media and to contribute to the development of the common good and the political debate. I believe, however, that a number of people should make an effort to better articulate their thoughts and try to come up with meaningful suggestions if not solutions to the different issues. Sometimes, instead, in blogs you just read outbursts of anger and almost personal attacks.

Here to stay

A few more personal basic observations about the Social Networks and the Internet in general: a) I suppose the Social Networks are here to stay. Actually I hope they are here to stay. Too important to connect people, to share information, to promote values, to enhance business, etc! b) They are “means” to a purpose. They are intrinsically good achievements of human ingenuity. As all means, however, they can and they are actually also being used for all sort of bad purposes. My suggestions is that each one of us only uses the Social Media for good purposes, so that we only write, post and share what can help humanity one way or another; c) The coming of Social Networks signals the end of the so-called personal “privacy”. In my opinion better be clear about this. Whatever we post on line, even if meant to be private and confidential, is absolutely likely to be seen by third parties who may or may not make use of it for purposes different than the original. Furthermore in many cases, Social Networks tell more than anything else about personal attitudes and interests. My suggestion is: on Social networks be yourself, never lie, tell what is OK for you for many to know, be joyful and even a bit goliardic if you want, but respectful... d) Social Networks should not be abused to just “kill the time” and eventually develop a sort of addiction, but for specific purposes: friendship, culture, business, spirituality and faith, entertainment, etc. Social Networks access becomes part of our daily life and activities, but they should take only the time and space they deserve.

Faith and truth, love and peace, participation and development in my opinion are the purpose and the reason for the Social Networks to exist and to prosper. (Divine Word University, Madang - 29 August 2013)

(www.cbcpngsi.orggiorgiolicini@yahoo.com )