MARY LOU ROSIEN
It often feels as if technology has left some of us adults behind — with Snapchat, Instagram (Finsta- a ‘fake’ Instagram), Facebook, Pinterest, and an App for everything. It’s as if we have fallen into a futuristic world! Teens not only know what these things are but how to utilize them.
One of the most important aspects of youth culture is its relationship with media. Beginning with television and continuing with the smartphone, media and youth culture have grown hand in hand… This is where they spend their time, communicate with each other, and form their “identity.”
—- The National Initiative of Adolescent Catechesis (2017) Introduction to The Joy of Adolescent Catechesis.
Jimmy Reynolds, 17, started an Instagram page @litcatholicmemesthat has 15,500 followers! He began the page by himself in July 2016. He says he wanted to effectively reach teenagers to show them that, “Church isn’t just a place for old people who don’t want to have fun.” He uses humorous memes to show others that they, “can live a life devoted to Christ, and still enjoy life here on earth, as that will ultimately lead you to the fulfillment of life in Heaven.”
Jimmy’s page has grown dramatically very quickly. He states, “Instagram pages like @memesofchurch, @epicchristianmemes and @comfortable_christianity were much larger than mine, so when they would post one of my memes, I would get a larger audience. I was even blessed to have memes used by BuzzFeed in an article they wrote called “37 Catholic Memes That’ll Make You Laugh, Then Feel Sinfully Guilty“. All of that combined with consistently making new content that people enjoy are the biggest reasons that are visible, but the biggest reason overall why my page has grown is purely the grace of God.”
Reynolds is very careful to use only images that are not copyright protected or ones that he has permission to use when creating his memes.
Alex Lamparella, 18, also has an Instagram page, @stleoslifeteen, as part of his commitment to his church youth group. Under the watchful eye of the youth minister, he uploads information about events at youth group to engage others. At a recent afternoon of Adoration, he publicized the event on Facebook and Instagram; about fifty young people attended. Social media helps teens know they are not alone in their Catholic faith and they can find fellowship at their local church.
Aaron Valone, 16, says posting small paragraphs to social media about faith issues is one way to reach out. He reminds us live streaming events (youth conferences, praise and worship nights, etc.) can also encourage others in faith.
Peter Burleigh, 18, describes hearing soundbites of information from his priest, youth minister, and others. That really impacted his spiritual journey and faith. He prayerfully discerned sharing that information with others, as he was very conscious about not giving anyone incorrect information about the Catholic faith. Today, he has almost 10,000 followers at his “Young Catholics” twitter handle. He explains he built his following by first following others: “I figured that people are more likely to see what I have to say if I approach them first. To me, the goal is just to get as many as possible to notice the content.”
Peter also warns about placing too much importance in social media as a tool for evangelization, “…social media is not supposed to be invested in too heavily because it is not the main form of evangelization… tweets and Instagram posts, in my opinion, are not supposed to be the real way that kids learn about their faith… I think that social media is too dominant to be considerate. Young people are thirsting for real connection and faith that demands they change their lives.”
Social media can be used to start the conversation, but it is not the conversation itself. Remember that Internet safety must be part of this conversation.
Tips for Posting on Social Media:
- When utilizing social media, humor gets noticed!
- Update content frequently.
- Don’t be afraid of posting the truths of the Catholic Church.
Mary Lou Rosien is a Catholic author and speaker with a masters certificate in catechesis. Her experience as a catechist includes being an RCIA coordinator, Confirmation instructor, pre-Cana instructor, and assisting in youth ministry. Find her website at CatholicFamilyBootcamp.com.
Image credit: Lenka Horavova /Shutter Stock 256473613