Trouble communicating online? Return to the family to learn to do it well
It’s the feast of Saint Francis de Sales and the Catholic Church has released Pope Francis’ World Communications Day message. It’s circulated earlier than World Communications Day itself (May 17 this year) so that churches around the world have the chance to read, reflect, and respond, or in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, take on the tasks of formation, dialogue, and participation in and through the media, and can be better prepared to celebrate World Communications Day.
It’s a succinct message and I’m excited to unpack it with you and apply it to our online communications:
The current message ‘Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love’ connects the message from last year, which reminded us of the human person behind every communication online (a network not of wires but of people), to the central theme of the family in the upcoming synod. What has the family got to do with how I communicate online? Pope Francis proposes that how we express love to one another within the family – the first encounter most of us have with another human person and the place where we learn language and how to communicate our desires, longings, fears, joys, and thoughts, and in particular, our words and how we say things, how we express our innermost selves – influences how we communicate with others, both friend and stranger, online. By returning to the origin of where we learned to communicate, we can communicate more authentically and more humanely. But what is this new perspective on viewing the human family? The answer he proposes may surprise us. It’s from a child’s response that we can learn:
Communication involves the whole human person. It’s not merely about grammar or proper use of words. At the outset, it’s not going to be easy to dialogue authentically online because the current predominant mode of online communication is textual, and because body language and facial features aren’t always on view, it takes effort, sensitivity, and thoughtfulness to express ourselves.