Twitter Advice for the Pope and What to Ask Him?

So, two days ago the Vatican announced the Pope’s new Twitter handle and relative hashtags. Since then, Pope Benedict XVI has amassed about half a million English-speaking followers (he will tweet in 8 Languages) and there are innumerable (and sometimes irreverent, often downright hateful) questions awaiting him at the #AskPontifex feed. The pope is not at a loss for reaction or, for that matter, advice. Our friend Brandon Vogt offers His Holiness Five Suggestions as he becomes a Tweeting Pope.

Writes Brandon, who is bolder (and fresher) than I:

1. Provide value.

If you only tweet information that can be found elsewhere, that’s not value. That’s redundancy. You’ll be way more effective if you provide valuable content that can’t be found anywhere else…

You can read the other four suggestions, here. They’re very sound, actually.

If the tone of some of the questions being lobbed at the pope are capable of raising eyebrows, over at the WaPo Michelle Boorstein has a good piece that looks at some specific tweets sent Romeward and wonders, among other things, what sort of voice will Benedict bring to Twitter?

. . .In the wake of Monday’s announcement, ­social-media experts and regular folk alike have been wondering: Will he respond in real time to events, potentially making news far more often and shaping global debate? What will his “voice” be like, his personality in 140 characters? Seen by some as an aloof academic, will the Holy Father do what other public figures have done, zapping out tweets about pets and sports? Could someone of his unique stature change Twitter? Could Twitter change him?

“I don’t think we’ll be seeing him use emoticons. I don’t think he’ll be cutesy-poo about anything,” said Elizabeth Scalia, managing editor of the Catholic channel at the Web site Patheos and an avid blogger and tweeter. “But he can speak in the language of the Good Shepherd, and he understands the world needs some gentleness.”

Some said Twitter’s brevity might be a positive — and surprisingly like the language of the Bible.

“The key points don’t have to be a major statement of faith: God loves you. Love your neighbor. Help the poor,” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the U.S. bishops. “The shortness is a benefit. We’re in a hectic world.”

Yeah, yeah, there’s me. But don’t let that keep you from reading the whole thing. It’s excellent.

The other day I joked that I hoped the pope’s first tweet would read, “What you gonna do? Haters gonna hate!” But honestly, given some of the bitterness, bile and distressing ignorance displayed in the questions being left for him, I can’t help but feel sadness at the lashing out, some of which seems almost reflexive, and some of it rooted in genuine pain. Why is it so much easier to fling one’s anger about than to ask a question, even a difficult question, with love, or — if love is impossible — a bit of respect?

There is a thin line separating love from hate, and while we often cannot explain why we love someone, we rarely have difficulty giving a point-by-point reason for our hatred. We’re seeing some of that easier way in the #AskPontifex twitterfeed right now, but I hope once things settle down a bit, people will be able to think to themselves, “if I have a chance — one chance — to have a question move across Benedict’s desk, what do I really want to ask him?”

What do YOU want to ask the pope? Why not go over there and ask Benedict — with all the respect you can muster, because it says a great deal about who you are and how you live — the question that is laying on your heart today, or has nagged at you for years?

The haters are having fun right now, and it’s an ugly thing. Don’t let them scare you off, and don’t be afraid to ask the Pope a question. I confess, I was a little intimidated at first, but once I asked one question, others quickly came to me.

The pope is reaching out — he’s extending a cyber-hand to the world. Extend yours back in this unique (and somewhat roiling) expansion of the communion of saints.

And don’t be afraid to show a little humor. Or even, a little love.

What will you ask?

Related:
For fun, Marcel LeJeune has 10 Things the Pope Should Tweet. Isn’t it sad, though, that he has to put a notice at the end acknowledging that he’s just having fun and not suggesting it for reals? People need to lighten up.

Marcel has also begun an amusing hashtag, which Tom McDonald links to: #thingspopewonttweet.

(Meme shamelessly cribbed from Frank)

About Elizabeth Scalia

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