Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On new media

One of the main issues we tackled in the social communication east-asia oceania regional meeting was about formation. Not only of the seminarians—aspirants and prenovices—but also of Salesians—the young ones and the once young.

You see, the emergence of the personal media such as mobile phone, itouch, ipad, netbook and the like have done a lot of wonderful stuff in our ministry for the young people.

Fr. Duds Hila, a Salesian based in Tondo has his weekly Kiliti ng Diyos, a blog dedicated to breaking the Word aptly written for the young people. For those who are into Lectio Divina, the Pandelasamena of Fr. Chito Dimaranan will surely be of help.

The reflections of Br. George Celis concisely wrapped in more or less 140 character text message and sent to all his phone contacts never fail to capture the essence of the Sunday Gospel.

One Salesian priest who sells his retreat manuals has three SIM cards—one for Globe, another for Smart, and the last one is for Sun. His reason: So that he could easily be reached by the young people. Whenever he celebrates Mass at the Greenbelt chapel, he would use the PowerPoint, which he generously shares in one condition: that the one asking for the file should invite him to be a friend in Facebook.

Young Salesians are also sharing their reflections in the cyberspace. Of late, I saw one  informative and inspirational video produced by the brothers of the postnovitiate community on St. Benedict.  One of my closest friends, Br. Juvelan of Don Bosco Mandaluyong, would flood the Facebook thread with the photos of Bosconians taken during their retreats.  

When I was a cloistered novice in the hill at Don Bosco Lawaan, I was able to befriend some of our Bosconians from Mandaluyong, Makati, Pampanga and even Tarlac! I corresponded with an FMA aspirant in the United States and an elderly Salesian Indian priest based in Rome. This became possible though my blog.

The websites of the Salesians in Africa, in Australia, in the United States are loaded with so many materials on vocation promotions.

One night will not be enough to enumerate how personal media have been used to evangelize and to make way for God to be known in the digital continent.

But as I enumerate its advantages, let us not close our eyes to the dangers it poses.

One of the major blunders of the Aquino administration last year endangered our diplomatic ties with our neighboring country Vietnam. When he visited that country last year, one of his secretaries noted that the wine served to them was not that delicious, and  there was a scarcity of good looking men. There is nothing bad about this opinion, only that, it was made public via Twitter.

It is true that the new media have made our life a lot easier, but it has also made our lives more complicated. For one, in the context of the seminary, the clausura is diminished. The wall separating us from the outer secular world collapses. We are exposed to the crazy outfits of Lady Gaga, and even the antics of Moymoy Palaboy. We could receive text messages in the wee hours of the morning, waking us up to the morning greeting: kamusta na u?

We may shield ourselves from the complexities of the cybernet if we’ll honor the seminary values inculcated in us. Two words Just two words. Authenticity and Transparency.

We are seminarians. Let us hold on to this our identity even when we step in the realms of cyberspace. This identity should remind us to behave well and observe prudence in whatever stuff, be it photos, reflections, witty remarks we post in the Internet. There is such a thing as digital footprints. Once we make our mark, it will be difficult to erase it.

Your seminary formators are helping you by barring you access from certain websites. For us to monitor what you place in your Facebook account, or the videos you upload in Youtube or your reflections in your blog, or even the text messages you send will be quite difficult if not utterly impossible. You have to do the gatekeeping yourself.

So, the next time you log on to the net, remember these two words: authenticity and transparency.