You may remember that in October 2012 Facebook released a statement saying that their one billionth account had been set up. If this was translated into a country’s population, Facebook would be the third largest country on Earth.
Later today, Pope Benedict XVI will abdicate from his post. When he made his first announcement and again yesterday giving his final papal blessing, he spoke to a community of 1.1 billion people across the globe. I heard devotees in Mexico, Chile, Nigeria and the Philippines on the radio talking about how their leader spoke to them directly. In my book, Facebook has just been relegated in to fourth place in population standing behind China, India and the Catholic community.
As a part-time user of Facebook, I have amassed 96 friends in total and another 82 on the Equality Edge Facebook Page; sometimes I ‘talk’ to them. If I add my Linkedin contact list, Twitter followers and blog readers, perhaps I can add another 2000 people, who I ‘talk’ to more often. But why do so many of us spend time trying to build our online communities – what do we hope to achieve?
I have so many thoughts I want to share; perhaps about my passions for equalities, human rights or respectful communication. Maybe I have heard or read some news that stimulates or excites me, or causes frustration or anger. When I share and people listen or read, I feel heard. I have my communities around me, both real and virtual, in the same way we all do. When I am heard it validates (and sometimes challenges) my thoughts, ideas and beliefs. That is why I build and communicate with my communities.
Going back to the Pope, can you imagine really talking to so many people – and have them listen too. His followers felt he was talking to them personally; he spoke to a real living community of over a billion people. No Facebooker, Tweeter or other online communicator could claim to have done that. Having all that power, yet being able to remain humble in communication – that’s what you call a skill. Perhaps we all have something to learn about the way we communicate either real or virtual, from Pope Benedict. I present you with a short list:-
- Communicate with humility and care.
- Be respectful.
- Know your limitations.
- Talk softly – you can translate that to online communication.
- Help your listener believe you are talking to them personally.
- Share something important about yourself.
- Value everyone; you never know which of your contacts will be your greatest supporter.
A few other little pointers that might be useful, but perhaps do not come from the Papal message.
- Be active in your community – if passive you will be invisible.
- Recognise that every person is the centre of their own online community, just as you are the centre of yours.
- Show respect to others in your field – there are people who know more than you.
- Listen to others and respond when communicated with.
I guess this is the space to wish the Pope well in his retirement and wonder what the communication skills will be of the incoming post holder – will he realise his flock is bigger than Facebook’s or will he use social media to communicate his messages?