Now I am of an age where I can say that there was a time when I had a familiarity with literally all aspects of computer and network use. There was, quite literally, no application or protocol used to communicate between computers that I did not have at least a passing relationship with. As an example, several years ago the Smithsonian had an exhibition on computer technology at which were present all kinds of computer hardware from the famous ENIAC to the more pedestrian S-100 bus based PC, Atari, Pet and of course the IBM PC. I took my son though the exhibit, who was in high school at that time and heard, "Dad, don't you have one of those?" at far more of the pieces than I would have expected, starting with the S-100 unit.
On this extensive array of computer hardware I managed to communicate with computer bulletin boards over phone modems, moved onto first AOL and CompuServe, and eventually to the Internet. Once on that world spanning network I found myself using email, Internet Relay Chat, FTP with its ARCHIE search engine, GOPHER with its equivalent VERONICA search engine, and of course Usenet.
Somewhere around the time the WWW came into existence I started to fall behind. Second Life was an environment I only heard about at a Systems Controls conference, where the other programmers had pretty much the same disinterested response I did to the presenter's enthusiastic endorsement of Linden's virtual world. I grabbed onto blogging after a fashion, though my lackadaisical update of this blog shows I'm certainly not in the league of the great Catholic bloggers who typically post a dozen times a day. I found Instant Messaging a total distraction that prevented me from getting any work done. MySpace and Facebook seem to require a much greater level of exhibitionism than I am comfortable with. Twitter? Does anybody really care where I am and what I'm doing?
So how does this great glut of social communication tools effect the ability of the catechist to carry out the mission? The Holy Father has said that it is important that the Church use the new media to evangelize, teach and proclaim the Good News. So it is incumbent on us to think and investigate how it is best to do that.
We must also remember that social media can be a two edge sword. Just as thoughtlessly placed photos on Facebook can cost you a job, it can also cost you the respect and trust of young people placed in your charge. IM or email between adults and young people must be carried on according to the highest standards of propriety.
When youth invite you to their IM buddy lists or friend you they should be made to understand that while you might indeed be their friend, you are also an adult who has a responsibility to report certain things to authorities or parents.
Any kind of relationship which could lead to scandal must be avoided. Remember any piece of information which travels through the Internet and including information which transverses the cell phone system never goes away. It is never private.
Provided that new media is used in a way that enhances human dignity and supports the commission laid on us by Christ it, like writing, radio and television before it can be used to the greater glory of God.