Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Washington Post Features

December 4, 2012

5 Twitter tips for the Pope

The Vatican announced this week that Pope XVI will begin tweeting under the handle @Pontifex. Though his first Tweet is not expected until Dec. 12, the English-language papal account already has over 112,000 followers:

"We are going to get a spiritual message. The Pope is not going to be walking around with a Blackberry or an iPad and no-one is going to be putting words into the Pope's mouth," Greg Burke, senior media adviser to the Vatican said.

"He will tweet what he wants to tweet," he added, though the leader of the world's 1.2 billion or so Roman Catholics is expected to sign off, rather than write, each individual tweet himself.

We applaud St. Peter's successor for embracing social media, but navigating Twitter can be tough for even the holiest of noobs. Here's a bit of unsolicited advice for His Holiness:

1. Learn from your peers

As Nick Kristof suggests, Benedict could do worse than to study the Dalai Lama's extremely popular account as a model for how religious leaders can use Twitter. @DalaiLama is mostly short nuggets of Buddhist teaching with occasional commentary on current events and some non-obnoxious self-promotion. The Pope may also want to get a translation of Salman al-Odah's feed to see how the Saudi cleric has built up nearly 2 million followers or look at Twitter-loving American evangelist Joyce Meyer who has more than 1.5 million.

2. Follow some people

Too many celebrities and leaders on Twitter make the mistake of using it only as a transmission system without following any other users. Benedict could start with other religious leaders, or political figures like Barack Obama and David Cameron. Nobody's expecting Benedict to follow biologist and avowed atheist Richard Dawkins just to prove he's open-minded, but perhaps following a few slightly critical feeds such the National Catholic Reporter -- which advocates ordaining female priests, for instance — could broaden his information diet a bit without angering the man upstairs.

Text Only
Washington Post Features
  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10 tips for surviving a severe allergy season

    My colleague Brady Dennis reported recently that the arrival of warmer weather will soon unleash a pollen tsunami in parts of the country where the winter has been especially long and cold. Here are some survival tips from Clifford W. Bassett, an allergy specialist and assistant clinical professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine.

    April 9, 2014

  • news_twitter.jpg Travelers fly on Air Twitter

    The enlightened age of social media has dawned over the airline industry, casting shadows over telephone call centers and on-site agents. Facebook and Twitter are racking up the friends and followers while the hold music plays on.

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • To get quality care, it helps to be the right kind of patient

    I am a family physician. Sometimes I must step out of the comfort of my clinical role and into that of patient or family caregiver. Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

    April 8, 2014

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 8, 2014

  • At many leading schools, football fails to make cut

    To my astonishment, 67 of the top 100 schools, ranked by participation in college-level tests, said they do not field a team, denoting a shift in American high school culture, at least in those schools that challenge their students most.

    April 7, 2014

  • pizza-300x216.jpg VIDEO: Pepperoni, extra cheese and...pot?

    A Vancouver pizzeria has added a unique item to its menu: Customers with a prescription can order pizza infused with marijuana.

    April 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • For April Fools' Day: A sampling of scientific hoaxes over the centuries

    Speaking of jokes, in honor of April Fools' Day, Discovery magazine's Jonathon Keats briefly recounts some scientific hoaxes perpetrated over the centuries. His catalogue of cons includes "Aristotle's Masterpiece," a 17th-century mishmash of bogus medical texts and sex advice that remained in publication for 200 years.

    April 1, 2014

  • touch.jpg Divorce is on the rise, and it's the baby boomers' fault

    A new paper from demographers at the University of Minnesota found that the age-standardized divorce rate has actually risen by an astonishing 40 percent since 1980.

    March 28, 2014 1 Photo