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PARAPPULLY Jose, New Delhi says,
By Jose Parappully
360° VIEW
New Delhi, Aug. 18. Recently I attended a seminar on ``Salesians and the Social Media`` at the Salesian Provincial House in New Delhi. I learned some very interesting things. Here are some reflections based on that learning.

Recently I attended a seminar on Salesians and the Social Media at the Salesian Provincial House in New Delhi. It was animated by Fr. K. J. Louis, the Salesian National Delegate for Social Communications, ably assisted by Fr. AU Thomas, the Provincial Delegate. The focus of this seminar was on the use of the electronic media. I learned some interesting things during that seminar.

First, there are a number of documents related to Salesian involvement in social media. Fr. Louis listed at least five:
1. Guidelines of the Salesian Congregation: Salesian Social Communication System
2. Book of the Provincial Delegate for Social Communication.
3. Salesian, Communicator: Social Communications
4. Formation of the Salesian in social Communications.
5. Shepherds for the Information Age (this one we were told is a specifically South Asian contribution)

Second, I also learned some very important things said in these documents.

``I beg and beseech you,`` Don Bosco pleaded with his sons, ``do not neglect this most important sector of our mission.``
One GC Document had declared quite some years ago, ``Mass media is an eminently Salesian Apostolate.``
The electronic media are ``a new gathering space for the young,`` said yet another document.
``Spreading of good books is one of the principal objectives of the society`` Don Bosco himself had declared.

On the first night of the Seminar I was invited to give the ``Good Night``. After giving some news (which was expected of me)  about Sumedha Centre that was shifted to the Kumaon  foothills of the Himalayas in the Diocese of Bareilly, I remarked that I would also need to give some ``good thought`` and said I would make a reflection on the day`s Seminar learning.

Fr Louis had told us that much time and energy had gone into the production of these documents. And a lot of money as well, I added. We Salesians are very good at producing documents. Good examples are the documents of the Provincial Chapters. The amount of time we have spent on changing phrases, words, and even punctuation to make them perfect! They turn out to be wonderful documents, but seldom informing our practice or our lives.

The fate of the Social Media documents is no better. These documents impressed on us how important the social media is, what a significant part they are of the Salesian Mission. But what about practice? If we really take the documents seriously, and give the social media the priority (``one of the principal objectives of the society``) that Don Bosco wanted us to give them, I asked, how come the publication of the Salesian Bulletin of our Province is a part time activity of just one individual who has the full-time responsibility of running an Animation Centre? It certainly does not seem to be much of a priority.

Cyberspace, as the documents reminded us,  is the new playground. That`s where young people gather today. And we Salesians are to accompany the young. However, what`s our presence in cyberspace?

It`s hard to change a mind set and move with the times. Even today, we give our priority to running schools and meeting the youngsters on the school playgrounds. If Don Bosco were here today he would be in Cyberspace in a huge way - and not on the school playground. We are missing the boat!

We are proud of our two major WebPages - and (I am particularly proud of this one. I think it is one of the finest webs on the internet -  that`s why I am using it!!) But whom do these serve? Us Salesians, of course. What`s the content of these pages? Salesian stuff, of course! In what way do these pages serve young people? Not much! Where`s the content that would attract young people to these pages? Very little indeed!

It`s time we Salesians offered a Web that would truly become a playground where we Salesians and the young chat together, walk together. We Salesians have also to be much more comfortable and adept at using the language and tools of cyberspace, if we are to truly accompany the young today. And have an appreciative, positive attitude toward Cyberspace and its enormous potential for good!
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