The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, has encouraged Christians to get involved in online social networks, but at the same time he’s warned users, especially young people, about the dangers of superficial online relationships taking the place of real life interaction.
In his message for the 45th World Day of Social Communications, he talked about the new horizons that are now open that were until recently were unimaginable.
The papal message, entitled Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age was released by the Vatican yesterday, the 24th of January.
Who is my ‘neighbour’ in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there is a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world ‘other’ than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting? It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.
I reckon he’s pretty well spot on. We’re in danger of losing ourselves amongst everything from Facebook to Twitter and so much more.
It can be easy to create an online persona that doesn’t really exist. We can chase online “friends” who will never really be there when we’re going through tough times and who we won’t get the opportunity to support in their time of need. Online friends are unlikely to hold us accountable or move us forward on the journey of life.
I love the opportunity to communicate with people all over the world, and I must admit that I really value some of the online friendships I’ve developed, but I’m very aware that I can’t let online relationships rob me of real life relationships with those who need me to be present in their lives.
Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life. Their ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so-called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one’s own being.
Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that attention is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world. In the search for sharing, for “friends”, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.
What do you think? Are you careful about the kinds of friendships you’re developing online? Do you think the Pope is right? Are there dangers we need to avoid?
Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading The Pope and Facebook? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks.