Now, I'm nobody to tell the Pope what he should and shouldn't do. But I think these are important questions to consider. Should the Pope have his own blog? Should he be tweeting on Twitter?
Some might say, he's already on Twitter. In fact, according to Mashable.com, the Pope "took to Twitter to save Lent." But did he really?
Even the Vatican's own news site reported that we could "Follow the Pope on Twitter for Lent." Sadly revealing, the same article doesn't even provide a link to find him on Twitter or tell us how to follow him on Twitter. After some searching around and filtering through some false "Pope Benedict XVI" profiles on Twitter, I did manage to find what they were talking about: @Pope2YouVatican
I applaud the effort by the Vatican, and I appreciate the many challenges (many of which we could never understand) that somebody like the pope would have using social media. But here is some, hopefully, constructive feedback.
First, I've never been a big fan of the whole "Pope2You" language. Pope2you.net has done some impressive things, to be sure. But the entire point of social media is the social part. It's the interaction part. Pope2You does not imply social, it implies broadcast. Which, by all means is an important aspect of what the pope does. What he has to say needs to be broadcasted out to the world by every means possible. But this approach falls short of all the best and most powerful parts of what has become the social web. Lots of leaders in the world have an important online (even broadcast) presence. None of them found it necessary to specify that it is "Me2You." It comes off as awkward.
Second, using Pope2You as the Twitter profile name is a bit like the Pope walking up to me when I meet him and starting off the conversation by saying, "Hello Matt, I am going to say something to you, and that's it. Just me to you. Not you to me, got it?" It's just not all that friendly. Granted, the pope has far more important things to say to me than I to him. But it's unnecessary (and could be perceived as rude) to point that out. The Pope's Twitter presence should simply be his name. That's how Twitter is used. @PopeBenedict. That's it. And the profile picture should be of him, too.
Third, the single @Pope2YouVatican account tweets the same message six times a day, each time in a different language. This means, for the majority of people, that 5/6 of what he says on Twitter is meaningless noise (if you don't understand it) or reptitive noise (if you do). If I go to a party and nobody can understand 5/6 of what I say, that's going to be a bit prohibitive to my social life. I realize this is a unique challenge for the Pope (as not many world leaders - if any - have a constituancy that speaks every language on the planet). And while there would be some additional drawbacks to creating separate profiles for each major language, I think that may be a much better way to go. Alternatively, the Pope could just create one profile in one language. He could use German or Italian...or, shoot, even Latin. And I guarantee you, if he were really using it, there would be lots of people out there translating it into every language necessary within minutes of every tweet.
But I digress. The bottom line is that I think it would be absolutely wonderful for the Pope to actually Tweet. If he were actually (at least a little bit) present on Twitter (and not just one of his departments tweeting on his behalf) he would be a huge hit.
A tragic illustration:
@Whitehouse = 2.8 million followers (The White House)
@BarackObama = 13 million followers (People prefer to connect to a person over a building)
@news_va_en (Vatican News) = 84k followers
@Pope2YouVatican = 27k followers
@PopeBenedict (if it were actually him) = ??
I guarantee that he would easily pick up millions of "followers" within a short time...IF he were actually using it and IF he were using it well. Millions. The P.R. potential is massive. The Pope says things worth hearing every day. Not many people actually hear them though. Here is a single, simple platform (Twitter) where he could easily extend his reach and influence orders of magnitude and become a more immediate part of the global conversation.
And Twitter is just one opportunity among many. Blogging is another.
Last week, I saw this headline from Brandon Vogt about the Pope starting his own blog: Pope to Blogosphere: I'll see you in the combox.
I thought, could it be? I dreamed of this day long ago. I mean, we've got cardinals and bishops who blog. Maybe the Pope, too? But alas, it was just a cruel April Fool's Day joke. But it shouldn't have been.
In addition to the Pope having one of the most popular Twitter profiles in the world, he could also easily have one of the most widely read blogs. Oh, the people he would reach. The people who would come to know how wonderful this man is and how great his Church. Of course it wouldn't take the place of encyclicals and the like. It would be a conversation about them. A teaser to them. A little summary or a snippet or prayer or a thought on a current event or a reflection on a trip or maybe a behind the scenes photo of the Pope meeting with the Dalai Lama and chuckling over a cup of a tea.
These kinds of things happen every day. The pope often shares these things in some way within his own circles and platform. And he already takes considerable amounts of time to even speak (and listen) to everyday individuals all the time. What I'm talking about here now is putting all of that into a new format. Forum. Language. The language of modernity. The dialect of a generation - for better or worse.
I can't help but think, if the Pope blogged and tweeted (well), of how many more people would know Christ's Church and what she has to say?
But I also recognize that I am but a small soul, awash in a contemporary phenomena of "tweets" and "likes" that often seem unnatural to my wise, old Church. Maybe she and the Pope know very well that all of this would be a bad idea. Or maybe they are just taking their time. Or maybe the Pope's every word deserves more thought and care than a tweet? Or just maybe, on the other hand, this would be a great way for the world to learn that we don't believe every word out of the Pope's mouth is infallible Church teaching? And that he can have opinions of his own? I don't know.
What do you think?