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“We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.”

This from Pope Francis in his weekly radio address, which Business Week’s Brenden Greely (@bhgreeley) called a lesson on social media etiquette.

Practicing Catholic or not, the Pope delivered a heck of a message on what social media is all about.

The Internet itself is a gift, per Francis.

The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.
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Today we are living in a world which is growing ever “smaller” and where, as a result, it would seem to be easier for all of us to be neighbours. Developments in travel and communications technology are bringing us closer together and making us more connected, even as globalization makes us increasingly interdependent.

It’s really true, look at how we are connected now compared to 20 years ago. Look at the rate which knowledge advances. Look at the identity the net has given individuals in Africa who didn’t even have a postal address, but are now connected to the world with a smart phone.

Though Internet communication helps us to grow closer, real engagement is required, per Francis.

The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another. …A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.
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It is not enough to be a passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters. We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. …The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.  …Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.

Addressing leaders of the Catholic Church, Francis makes clear social media is not about broadcasting religious messages, but about authentic engagement.

Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 47th World Communications Day, 2013).

To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.

Social media requires listening, not talking, first. Reading first what others are writing, not pushing one’s own content at people.

To dialogue means to believe that the ‘other’ has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his point of view and perspective. Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.

The Internet is a powerful medium for lawyers to engage others to build trust, to build relationships, and to build a reputation.

Take to heart Pope Francis’ message of listening, engagement, and real connection.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Catholic Church (England and Wales)