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August 6, 2013 10:05 am

Other Religions are Modernizing With Social Media

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Pope Francis. Photo: Casa Rosada/Wikimedia Commons

For thousands of years, there have been many different religious belief systems. In ancient times, religion was often spread by word of mouth – or the conqueror’s sword. As society grew and explorers set out across the oceans looking for new lands, there were often two goals on their mind: finding fortune and spreading the gospel. As modern communication continues to improve, social media platforms offer many options for religious leaders to better reach out to their flocks.

Following my recent blog entitled, The American Jewish Establishment Must Embrace Social Media, many Jewish leaders reached out to me to complain, comment, and bicker. Clearly I hit on something sensitive – and I hope changes are made that benefit our community.

Outside of Judaism, many different religious leaders continue to adapt the manner in which they reach out to their flocks. Many religions have upgraded to 21st century technology, and as CEO of 5WPR, I wanted to highlight three ways that religious groups are catching up with the times.

1. Pope on Twitter

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The leader of the Catholic Church is now utilizing Twitter to get his message out to people. In December of 2012, the account @Pontifex was created for use by Pope Benedict XVI to reach out to a younger, more tech savvy audience. Other accounts were created in other languages, such as Italian, and with his combined accounts, the Pope has more than six million followers. It was only 100 years ago that, for the first time, the Pope’s voice was transmitted around the world, and people in other nations could hear him speak.  Today, his doctrine can be blasted around the world in an instant to throngs of followers. Can’t Rabbis worldwide learn something from the Pope?

2. WebChat Questions

Many religious organizations and leaders have elaborate websites and conduct live web chat sessions for those who have questions. Mormons, who require young members to go on missions across the country and around the world, have stay-at-home missionaries working the chat lines at Mormon.org, where anyone can speak with a real person at any time of day to ask questions about the Mormon faith. In Judaism, Chabad.org and Aish.com both have outstanding web chat platforms and host interactive discussions with strong, quick communications taking place.

3. Facebook Identity

Since the launch of Facebook, the personal information “About” section has included the same basic items: Name, Birthday, Hometown, Current City, Relationship Status, and Religion. Though anyone can choose not to enter their religion, this section is still the cornerstone of identity on the largest social network in the world.

Facebook also features a myriad of groups and fan pages dedicated to every type of religion and belief system, and serves as a place where people can come together without leaving their homes. Old world institutions are usually the last ones to modernize, but it is clear that many religious groups and institutions are learning the importance of social media, and its many uses.

Jewish leaders need to improve on their use social media.

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