"Speaking with the heart" was the theme of the 57th World Day of Social Communications that was observed on Sunday, 21 May, reminding us that we are encouraged to build bridges between people rather than walls, and that all communication should promote dialogue and openness to others.
Source - May 21, 2023 - written by Jean Gagné, Communications Officer for the Diocese of Chicoutimi President, AMéCO (Association des médias catholiques et œcuméniques) - Translated by the Archdiocese of Montreal
This Day was established by the Church in 1966 to raise awareness of the moral and spiritual issues that mass communications represented for society, and which are just as current today. We can see how relevant they are by considering how our means of communication have exploded in the decades since the advent of the electronic age. We need only look at the diversity of social media that have appeared, including Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, TikTok, and so on. Up until a few years ago, who would have imagined that our newspapers would one day be delivered on our computers, tablets and mobile phones?
The medium is the message
A co-founder of contemporary media studies, Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), declared that "the medium is the message." The term “medium” in this context refers to all the various channels of communication, including traditional, electronic and social media, and remembering that we personally, and on a daily basis, play the role of agents of communication. We know from personal experience that the channels of communication through which information is transmitted and received cannot help having an impact on us and exerting an influence on our emotions and perceptions with regard to events.
Protecting ourselves against fake news
In order to protect ourselves, whether against fake news and the harmful effects it can have, or against information that is sometimes biased, that is sometimes lacking in adequately rigorous research or is exploited for ends that are political, financial or religious, etc., we are urged to diversify our sources of information, to be constantly critical of them and to give priority to facts before we determine our level of confidence in the myriad messages in circulation.
According to the Agence Science-Presse, in order to be certain of the credibility of a media outlet, it is recommended to focus on three indicators: 1) the distinction between facts and opinions (editorial, column, blog), bearing in mind that an opinion piece should be based on facts; 2) the distinction between journalistic content and that which is funded by advertisers; and 3) insisting that news reported by the media should be of public interest. As for news reported by professional journalists, they should quote their sources of information, identifying them clearly as being their sources, and they should present both sides on any given subject about which they are reporting.
When it comes to social media, the phenomena of fake news, influencers and hate speech, it is of course difficult to evaluate the credibility of what we are being told. I am one of those who, through my work, but also out of personal interest, are interested in social media. However, I say freely that I am always wary of what is circulating, and I avoid giving too much credit to certain publications. I prefer to subscribe to a variety of sites that are known to be serious and trustworthy. Social networks offer a wealth of information, ideas and opinions that can open our minds and help us understand this society that is in constant flux, requiring me to keep up to date.
Seeking the truth
In the message he published for the 57th World Day of Social Communications 2023 entitled Speaking with the heart. “The truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), Pope Francis states: "We should not be afraid of proclaiming the truth, even if it is at times uncomfortable, but [we should be afraid] of doing so without charity, without heart." The truth, Pope Francis reminds us, is vital for a cohesive life in society, adding that the media have a role in promulgating that truth.
As communicators practising our craft on a daily basis, we must consider true dialogue as the option we should promoted, and this requires listening respectfully, but also with the heart.