Social media is a powerful tool

Faith in Action Volunteer Tobi reflects on the skills she has gained, the lessons she has learnt and how her time supporting Emma Darling the Communication Officer with social media has helped her personal development.

Amongst all the opportunities that I have experienced in this Columban Faith in Action year, one was the chance to support Emma Darling, the Communications Officer for the Columbans in Britain.

Emma’s role is to communicate the work of the Columbans to our supporters through diverse and creative ways including advertisements, email marketing, flyers and social media. She also creates and organises content for the website.

To me, social media is like storytelling, that’s because places like Instagram and TikTok allow you to share your thoughts and words to an audience. Social media is a megaphone that amplifies your voice, and it is like a magnifying glass that allows an audience to see what you are seeing. It is a great tool to spread awareness of a cause, inform people, correct misconceptions and positively influence people. I think it’s safe to say that social media is a powerful tool.

Social media is a place that provides an array of perspectives that have probably been oppressed and were never deemed worthy to have a seat at the table of opinions and decisions. When I look at Instagram pages of people such as Vanessa Nakate, the Ugandan climate activist and Climate in Colour, an Instagram page that looks at the intersections of race and climate change and is run by Cambridge PhD student Joycelyn Longdon, or The Black Curriculum founded by Lavinya Stennett who aims to make black British history a mandatory part of the British school curriculum, it makes me proud to be in such a generation that has a platform which allows you to share your voice.

These three pages I mentioned are created and run by young black females, a group in society that can be discriminated against for not only their gender, but also the colour of their skin too. Social media has provided these women with the space to share what matters to them, their concerns about issues like climate change, race and gender from an intersectional approach. Without social media, they would have found it hard to create the momentum that they attain today due to obstacles and barriers that are unique to non-white women. They would have been told that they are too loud and aggressive, or that their opinions are irrelevant.

Author and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her famous Ted Talk video titled ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ shows the danger of listening to a single form of opinion and how certain groups of people haven’t had the chance to speak for themselves but have been spoken for. Whilst it is okay to be spoken for, a voice that isn’t your own can speak from a harmful stereotype. That’s why I say I am proud to be born in this generation where social media provides the autonomy and self-agency to people who have a voice and have something to say.

As Columbans, we are able to use social media to spread the good news of our faith and show the things that matter to us. We use it to promote the JPIC work we do and also the local ministries that support disadvantaged people. In supporting Emma, I have been involved in creating and posting content on the Faith in Action TikTok account and the Faith in Action Instagram account and some for Twitter, Facebook and YouTube too. Our feeds are filled with images and videos of our varied work and include school visits where we ran workshops, our trip to Glasgow to the COP26 negotiations and images of our involvement in ministry projects in and around Birmingham.

In addition to creating content and posting on these social media platforms, Emma also showed me how to navigate the website’s Content Management System (CMS) which is basically the behind the scenes of the website. Gaining exposure to this has developed skills in putting together blogs for Columban site. I have learnt how to use an intuitive social media scheduler RecurPost which is what Emma uses to schedule posts which helps with creating a consistent social media presence.

Social media has been an educational tool for me because through this role, I have been able to understand the work and the values of the Columban Missionaries, and it has been a pleasure being able to promote the Society and the wonderful things we do, to our supporters. This role has also helped with my personal development and confidence levels. If anyone truly knows me, they will know that I am an idealist and a perfectionist and at times, this is to my own detriment. Because of this tendency to want things written meticulously or videos constructed perfectly and sounding superfluously, when doing a task, I tend to tell myself, “This just isn’t good enough”, resulting in me hyper-fixating on how to make it even better, which in turn results in the task being overdue. I believe I have improved in this area and this role has helped me to have more confidence in my writing and creative thinking skills. I recently looked back at some of things I wrote right at the beginning of my Faith in Action year. What I posted wasn’t actually as badly written as I thought and I’m proud of what I have written, and it has shown me that I can produce good content.

I have faced challenges whilst being in this role. For example, I have learnt the meaning of “fail to plan, plan to fail”. There have been moments where a plan for a post has not been put in place which leads to incoherence and inconsistency. One thing I will take away from this is the need to have a plan even if it’s not concrete, as a plan is better than no plan.

I am glad that this Faith in Action year offered me the opportunity to delve into the world of communications. It’s been nice working with Emma in my Faith in Action Year. It’s been educational because I’ve learnt about the art and skill of communicating with an audience and how important it is. I dearly appreciate the time, effort and patience that Emma has had with me. This will be an unforgettable part of my Columban Faith in Action experience.

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Read more of Tobi's blog posts detailing her year as a Faith in Action Volunteer.

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