Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, has had a presence on Facebook for a number of years, but just branched out into Twitter a few months ago. He says it has been an “interesting and eye-opening experience.”
“I hesitated to get on Twitter for a long time because I thought, perhaps, it could be a little bit trivial and I was already present in public discussions in other ways. But then I realized that Twitter was here to stay and it wasn’t just a fad that was going away. And I recognized that the Holy Father was using Twitter and the President of the United States was using Twitter and lots of other news outlets and nonprofit organizations and dioceses. So I thought, well, if I don’t get on Twitter now I’m missing an opportunity. So I decided to take the plunge about four months ago,” said Bishop Tobin to John Harper, host of Morning Air® on Relevant Radio®.
For him, it’s about focusing on the good, true, and beautiful aspects of life, despite the negativity that has been running rampant on some social media platforms. “It’s sort of an epidemic that’s been sweeping our nation and I guess our culture in general—the incivility and vulgar language and the lack of charity and kindness. And sometimes, in fact, a lack of truthfulness; people post things that are simply not true. So it’s very hard to control what other people will do … I’ve noted that a number of publications, local and national, have eliminated comments from their pages and that’s just because once you open it up to comments, you don’t have total control over that and sometimes it can do more harm than good,” said Bishop Tobin.
“It’s not the best forum for personal dialogue,” says the bishop, but it helps to make him more personable and relatable to his flock. Twitter has been a great way for him to share beautiful moments that are happening in the Diocese of Providence with a wider audience, including the recent ordination of a new priest and other faith and pop culture topics.
Social media has multiple benefits for Bishop Tobin’s role as a shepherd in the Catholic Church. “On one hand, it extends the teaching office of the bishop … and secondly, it keeps the Church involved in public discussions. It keeps us having a place at the table for some of these public and current issues. And thirdly, I do think it humanizes the office of the bishop.”