by Carol Zimmermann
ST. LOUIS (CNS) — When Catholic communicators were urged to rein in their social media use during a June 3 keynote address at the Catholic Media Conference, they might have thought they were in the wrong room.
During the three-day St. Louis conference for members of the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada, many participants already attended workshops on how to step up their social media use and were likely prepared to hear that message reinforced by Sister Helena Burns, often dubbed the “media nun” for her extensive online presence.
It would be a big understatement to say Sister Burns, a Daughter of St. Paul, knows about media and social media in particular. She is a writer and producer with CatholicTV in Boston and is a movie reviewer for LifeTeen and the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. She also writes a blog and has more than 26,000 Twitter followers. She has posted 105,000 Vine loops, has her own YouTube channel and a Facebook page, along with Instagram and Pinterest accounts.
“I love new media, and I use it,” she told the crowd, but then added the twist: “It doesn’t give me joy,” and warned about blurring professional and personal lines by being constantly connected to one’s smartphone.
The Toronto-based sister, who gives talks in the U.S. and Canada on media literacy and theology of the body, is not about to stop her flurry of social media activity, but she does insist on finding a balance and urged the communicators in the room to do the same.
“If we have a plan and stick with it, we can find balance,” she said.
For starters, she insisted there are three places where smartphones should never be used: Mass, meal tables and the master bedroom.
She also is a firm believer in restoring the etiquette that used to come with cellphone use, remembering a simpler time when people used to excuse themselves if they received a phone call.
Now, she said, people not only take calls in front of each other, but they also look at their screens constantly and at the expense of missing out on the conversation right in front of them.
Sister Burns urged the group whose jobs focus on communication to “do some soul-searching and be brutally honest” about their social media use or dependence. She reminded the communicators that technology has not given them more hours in a day, just more ways to consume those hours.
“Make adjustments where needed,” she advised them.