Before even sending out his first 140 characters, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI had already collected more than 600,000 followers on his English Twitter handle, @Pontifex . His first tweet will be sent out simultaneously in seven additional languages from seven different Twitter handles, according to a press release issued by the Vatican .
Tom Riley, president of the Penn State Newman Catholic Student Association, said he thinks the pope’s Twitter account is a great way for the pope to reach his followers.
“It will help people to see how relevant the church’s teachings are in daily life, especially for younger people who use Twitter more,” Riley said. “The pope will basically be able to speak directly to them.”
S. Shyam Sundar , Penn State distinguished professor of film-video and media studies, said that Twitter is one of the best ways to get a point across because it allows a person to reach a massive amount of people while still being very personal. Sundar, who founded the Penn State Media Effects Research Laboratory, said that Twitter could be the most effective media for the pope to reach members of the church.
“The pope’s tweets could potentially have a larger impact than even his biggest televised public sermon,” Sundar said.
Not only does the pope have a global reach with his massive Twitter following, but he also has the ability to tweet whenever he wants. The pope’s frequent “social media sermons” will be effective at getting people to think spiritually on a daily basis, Sundar said.
Sundar said that people pay a lot of attention to tweets as they come in, especially when these tweets come from authority figures.
“When the pope tweets, to Catholics, it’s like the voice of God tweeting,” Sundar said. “The pope has that authority, so we feel as though we need to pay attention.”
Penn State is no stranger to the power of Twitter. As previously reported, Penn State ranked No. 1 for its use of social networking earlier this year.
Whether by following the university’s official account or one of the many infamous parody accounts, Penn State students are able to stay in the loop via Twitter.
Though Hannah Horne uses her Twitter account mainly for socializing, she said she also uses it to follow important Penn State figures and news sources.
As a follower of the official Penn State Twitter handle, among others, Horne said she thinks Twitter is a great way to stay informed about what is going on around campus.
Although she does not follow any of them personally, Horne said that parody accounts of Penn State administrators are good examples of accounts that become more popular as more students retweet them.
This bandwagon effect could be beneficial to figures like the pope, Horne said.
“If people see that more and more people are following accounts of religious or political leaders, they would be more likely to follow them, too,” she said.