By Tiffany Lee & Kevin Matyi
Pope Francis made an Instagram account on Saturday, March 21, becoming the first Pope in history to use the 6-year-old social media website known for posting pictures of friends and food.
The Pope’s Instagram account has 2.1 million followers and 17 posts, compared to the Vatican News’ official Instagram account, which has 87,000 followers and 531 posts.
Only three out of the 20 Catholic churches in the town of Brookhaven have Facebook pages, one has a Twitter account and a YouTube channel and none have an Instagram account, as of today.
“I would say that social media definitely influences people’s everyday life,” Jason Jones, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stony Brook University, said. “For example, social media makes it easier for people to maintain large sets of weak ties and provide an additional mode of communication for strong ties.”
This was not the Pope’s first foray in to the still young world of social media. Three years ago, he joined Twitter, a website which has only turned 10 year old in the past few weeks.
The Pope has made a total of nine Twitter accounts, each one for a different language in order to connect with as many followers as possible. He now has over 25 million followers in total.
“I believe that every religious leader should have some sort of- be in touch with growing technology, being aware of the surroundings, of the youth and our country and be in touch with everyone,” Carlos Rojas, a police officer in his early 50’s, said.
Other groups have also embraced some forms of social media. Joanna Fruhauf, office manager for the Christ United Methodist Church on Long Island, said that the church uses Facebook exclusively because it is easier for posting, and that they would consider more social media options as the church grows.
Even student organizations have followed the trend of churches on Long Island in embracing Facebook, but few other kinds of social media.
“We use mainly Facebook and WeChat,” Sherrie Ma, a senior Coastal Environmental Studies major and current president of the Chinese Christian Fellowship, said. “We don’t really use Twitter, or anything else.”
A nearby student explained that WeChat is another form of social media that is popular in China.
Most of the members of the fellowship only use Facebook and WeChat, but that she was very open to expanding the club’s social media presence, Ma said.
However, not all religious organizations use social media. Marina Nasr, president of the Orthodox Christian Fellowship at Stony Brook University, said that she did not know of any social media accounts for the Coptic Orthodox Pope, Pope Tawadrous II.
“In general, any announcement is spread in church and also there are a lot of channels on the TV that are specific to Coptic Orthodoxy, so we get news and information that way,” she said.
“It can be used for good, and also, it is used for evil at times,” officer Rojas said about the use of social media. “In [the Pope’s] case, it’s good to have social media, it’s good to spread the word, it’s good to be enlightened by many things around us.”