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The Pope delivers his first Tweet December 12, 2012

Posted by Mark Hillary in Current Affairs, Internet.
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Pope Benedict has sent his first tweet using the account @pontifex and he has continued to tweet throughout the day. But what use is Twitter to the head of a church?

The answer is really that it depends. I can imagine that the main reason for the Pope to be using a tool like Twitter is to engage with Catholics across the world, but the reality is that it would be very difficult for the Pope to actually engage with people.

Even on his first day of tweeting, the Pontiff already has over 700,000 followers. He can’t talk to them on a one-on-one basis or start picking out interesting comments to respond to – there are just too many.

So the Vatican’s use of Twitter would seem to be mainly just as a broadcast tool – to send out Holy messages to a flock prepared to listen in a new way.

It’s a shame to see that social media can be used essentially as nothing more than just a radio or TV broadcast via another medium, but in this case I can understand how difficult it would be for the Vatican to choose individuals to respond to online.

It does show that there is an interesting change in the concept of broadcasting itself. Lady Gaga has over 32m followers on Twitter. She doesn’t need a TV or radio station to get a message out to tens of millions of people – and if several of them share the news with their own followers it is reasonable to expect that she can reach hundreds of millions in a few seconds.

The concept of entertainment channels is being redefined. Fans of sports teams can just follow an online channel maintained by their team – there is no longer any need for a broadcaster. How will the growth of this online broadcasting change the broadcast world as we know it?

Pope Benedict XVI prays in front of the image of Our Lady of Fatima after arriving to catholic Fatima shrine in central Portugal, May 12, 2010

 

Photo by the Catholic Church of England and Wales licensed under Creative Commons

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