I remember being in a lecture during uni about 8 years ago and the lecturer asked 'how many of you are on this Facebook thing?' At the time I was still on Myspace and LiveJournal (remember those?) and Facebook was still relatively unknown.
In a room of about 50 multimedia students... you know, the type who were all supposedly all over new technology. I would say about a third of the class put their hands up. Now, if you were to ask this question in 2017 I have no doubt they would all put their hands up, in fact, I'm sure their parents would put their hands up too :).
For most people born from the mid-eighties onwards, social media is part of how we have grown up as a generation of Australian youth. It's had an impact on how we view and treat our world, who were connected with and ultimately who we are as young people.
Here are some quick statistics for you to mull over:
- 2.1 Billion of the world's population are on social media. 7 billion in total. Just over a quarter of the world's population.
- According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are now approximately 24 million Australians. Out of this 24 million, 15 million are Facebook users. This means 62.5% of the total Australian population has a Facebook account. This is a huge statistic in itself.
- 89% of 18 - 29 year-olds are on Facebook
Now that we understand the impact let's take a look at our top tips for using social media in our respective youth ministries:
For your youth group...
1. If you haven't already done so, Create a Facebook group.
Invite your youth members to your youth groups Facebook page. Upload a logo or a nice banner image to help express your group's identity. Keep your members updated and let them all know whats going on for the sessions ahead.
2. Create a group thread for your leadership team.
Keep the core leadership informed, and updated. Stay in touch, share a joke or two. But more importantly, build transparency communication between your leaders.
3. Promote your events through your respective social media channels.
4. Share great content!
Share content on to your youth group's Facebook page. Content that is formative, inspiring and positive.
5. Foster a sense of community.
Never underestimate the power of a group selfie. Sound's a little cheesy, but group shots always help encourage a sense of belonging and community.
Here's a funny video to break things up abit:
As a youth leader....
6. Remember you are always a leader online and off.
What you do online, through social media and how you present yourself, translates to who you are as a leader. Ask yourself are you being a good role model.
7. Take your soul seriously.
Be mindful of what you like, follow, and ultimately what you're exposed to online. There is a lot of harmful content out there, which may lead you to temptation. Take things in in tune with yourself, allow the content you follow to lead you purpose. This might mean hiding posts, or unliking certain forms of content.
8. Maintain appropriate boundaries
As a leader, if a young person sends you a private message, encourage them to speak to you in person, in a public setting such as your next youth group session whereby other adults/leader's and youth will be present.
9. Uphold the dignity and privacy of young people.
In some way's it goes without saying but it's always important to remember to never embarrass young people online, especially because it's a public forum. On that note you should uphold the dignity and privacy of young people offline and at youth group too.
10. Strive for Connection, not attention.
There are two kinds of social media users: one who goes on with a “look at me!” perspective and one who goes on with a “let’s connect” perspective. Social media was made for the latter.
To finish up, let us reflect on the wise words of Pope Francis who said...
"Emails, text messages, social networks, and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal."
Written by Dexter.
Dexter is the Communications Officer
at the Archdiocesan Office For Youth