Yesterday, in preparation for my weekly appearance on The SonRise Morning Show with Brian Patrick, I posed the following topic to my friends on Facebook:

For those of you who aren't on Facebook, or who missed the conversation, I thought I'd share this here along with my thoughts on a few of the topics we hit on in the comment boxes.  The topic was raised by Matt Swaim, SonRise's producer and an amazing author.  The main point of discussion -- how can we (or should we even try to) capture the energy of "viral" initiatives as a Church? We've all heard about the "Homeless Radio Announcer Guy" or the "Dancing Wedding Couple".  Their stories spread so quickly and with such ferocity that both became overnight sensations.

For those of us who enjoy using social media -- blogging, Facebook, Twitter -- to share our faith, should we be aiming to "go viral" with the good news of Christ's gospel?  Or is it more our aim to build relationships, to BE Christ to our loved ones, and to patiently endeavor to spread our faith through one to one discipleship?

I still don't have the answers, but I learned a few things from yesterday's conversation:

  1. Dialogue is essential. The news we seek to spread is not a flash in the pan, here today gone tomorrow trend.  It's timeless, and for all eternity.  People will have questions, and we should welcome them rather than flaming them and sending them packing. Patience is a virtue that's not popular these days - but in this case, our desired end result is one that's worth the wait.
  2. Speed is essential. As Church, we must be well versed and adept with the new technologies, so that WE tell our story instead of letting someone else tell it and trusting them to get the facts and our meaning correct.
  3. Quality is essential. Ask Lino Rulli about the state of Catholic media and he'll tell it to you straight. What we've done in the past won't work in the future. We need to find compelling ways to share our good news in a way that is uplifting, emotional and yes, even fun.
  4. Friendship is essential. My Facebook friend Melanie said it best:

I'm not sure anyone can predict what exactly will go viral. It seems to me that it's as much chance as anything. I think consistency of message and high quality is more important than trying to chase after an "it factor". But I do think the effectiveness of social media to effect positive change comes down to relationships and authenticity. It's got to be about making a connection with people. I think all too often where Catholic's use of social media goes astray is that they are more concerned about the message and the medium than the people. It can easily slide into an attempt to manipulate people rather than to forge relationships with them. Which is so wrong precisely because the substance of our message is a Person and a Relationship. The only way to really effect positive change is to help people to know Christ, to be the face of Christ to them. To do that we need to be more than a message, rather we need to be fully, authentically ourselves. And I think we need to foster patience, which can sometimes seem at odds with the fast pace of new media. People don't jump into a relationship overnight, they must grow into it gradually. There must be room for questions, for doubts, for hesitation and uncertainty. I think that by airing our own struggles and doubts we open up a space where we can meet people where they are at instead of seeming like we have all the answers. Melanie B.

Yesterday's chat on Facebook still has me wondering about what difference my efforts can make in the overall scheme of things, or if my little voice is just one more bit of noise in an already overburdened arena of thoughts and conversation.  I continue to go back to last week's World Communications Day message from Pope Benedict XVI, and to strive for humulity, for service, and for authenticity in my online communications. In the end, what brings me back to this space time and time again are the friendships I've built and the capacity for inspiration and education present online.  I want to learn, to grow, and to find ways to help others.

I'll likely never create anything that goes "viral", but if we work together with energy and with attention to the truth and to relationships, I still believe you and I have the capacity to change the world - and to have fun doing it.