World Youth Day has launched its official social networking tool, XT3, and it's pretty impressive at one level. All the same, I have to ask what the point of a specifically Catholic network is.
I have to admit that I am still a novice in the social networking world, so I really am looking for people to educate me! When the New Liturgical Movement blog established a presence on facebook I decided I had better find out what it is all about and so I joined up (and I was evidently not alone, as NLM now has over 1,000 members). But I have to say that so far I am still finding it pretty bizarre (my golden moment was being invited to be part of someone's 'entourage').
How social networking works
For those who haven't tried it yet (who will no doubt be in the minority), once you join up you can network in several ways. First you are attached to a country network, which seems to result in occasional ads for things you might be interested in like concerts. You can also join up to a city network.
Secondly you can acquire 'friends' - you let facebook (and now the new XT3) suck up addresses and names from your email accounts, and see if they can find them. And you can ask to be some one's friend - so Fr Z for example, has 222 of them, while Fr Finigan (Hermaneutic of Continuity) has 331! Once you have a few, Facebook will suggest others you might know, or who are friends of your friends.
You get to know what your friends are doing (should they provide an update on their activities as many do), what groups they are joining, what books they are reading, and much more.
This can actually be quite powerful - I was invited to join a protest against Victoria's anti-abortion laws for example, something I wouldn't have known about had I not been part of the network.
And you can join groups either just to indicate solidarity (as per the 100 fans of Fr Jordan) or to read and contribute to discussions.
So why do we need a catholic network?
So here is my question: why do we need a specifically Catholic network?
I can see the advantages of social networking, and I love some of the cutesy tools, but why not just set up some WYD groups on facebook (OK, actually there are dozens already)?
And I can see the advantages of social networking for evangelization, but presumably only the committed will join a specially catholic network?
Although its just being launched, XT3 already has thousands of groups, many with discussion threads already well started. I signed up, and almost instantly gained 'friend' in the form of one of the site organizers. They are going to an impressive amount of effort.
But the only substantive difference that I noted during my quick perusal between Xt3 and facebook is that Xt3 networks you by diocese. And unlike facebook,where one can remain reasonably anonymous vis-a-vis location, Xt3 makes this public (you won't therefore find me on xt3 under this name!).
Is there more to it? Someone enlighten me!
And if I haven't found you already, become my facebook friend...