Christmas is around the corner so this is as good a time as any to urge Pope Francis to close down his Twitter account.
Pope Francis has been praised for engaging his followers on social media. His Twitter account has gained 8.15M English language followers since early 2012. The Holy See “follows” nobody (makes sense, I suppose); his eight ‘followers’ are duplicate Twitter feeds in different languages such as Arabic, Polish, Spanish and German with a combined following of an additional 12M.
It sounds revolutionary. The most ordinary individuals can now get access to personal, inspirational messages from the most prominent Christian in the world at any time, at any place.
For example, during the Paris attacks last month, the Holy See tweeted, “I’m deeply saddened by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Please join me in prayer for the victims and their families #PrayersforParis.” The Tweet was liked 65K times and re-tweeted 40K times.
This is what celebrity Katy Perry told the world: “Guys, it’s time to #PrayforParis right now.” She outperformed the Holy Father. Her 79M followers re-tweeted the message 49K times and 63K liked it.
And that’s the rub. Although @pontifex may make the Pope seem accessible, he is more likely diluting his personal brand.
Just imagine scrolling through an average Twitter feed:
- Justin Bieber: @whoisvers Why is this Justin Bieber album so fucking amazing
- Eminem: I’m ready for war, got machetes and swords… #ShadyWars
- CNN: Dashing through the snow In a one horse open sleigh O’er the Capitol Hill fields we go http://cnn.it/1maAE1o
- Pope Francis: One goal for each day: to convey the tenderness of Christ to those who are most in need.
Accessibility is good, but not at the expense of erasing important differences in status, authority and influence. No matter what one may think about the Catholic Church or the Pope, he is not on equal footing with celebrities and 24-hour TV channels. At least I don’t hope so. This Christmas, let’s stop pretending.