The Pope delivered his message on the 45th World Day of Communications. Very apropos:
It is an ever more commonly held opinion that, just as the Industrial Revolution in its day brought about a profound transformation in society by the modifications it introduced into the cycles of production and the lives of workers, so today the radical changes taking place in communications are guiding significant cultural and social developments. The new technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself, so much so that it could be said that we are living through a period of vast cultural transformation. This means of spreading information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship.
The Pope has dealt with the Internet, social networking, and mass communications many times in the past. He is always quick to highlight the transformational power new technologies offer—in this case, he compares our communications revolution to the Industrial Revolution.
He is, as always, quick to warn of the dangers involved in this technology's misuse, and reminds us that, as with every tool humanity uses, this tool must, too, be placed at the service of good, rather than evil... and it is up to you and I to do this!
As with every other fruit of human ingenuity, the new communications technologies must be placed at the service of the integral good of the individual and of the whole of humanity. If used wisely, they can contribute to the satisfaction of the desire for meaning, truth and unity which remain the most profound aspirations of each human being.
The Pope warns that online communication, particularly, I think, in the form of status-posting and blogging, "can become a form of self-indulgence." He also warns of the dangers of a digital lifestyle, including "enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence," "excessive exposure to the virtual world," and "constructing an artificial public profile for oneself."
The pope continues to remind us that "virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives."
The whole message is incredibly succinct and important for anyone working online to read. Please read it in full—and post your thoughts here!
Further Reading for Thought/Discussion:
- I'm Obsessed with the Obsession
- New Book on "The Church and New Media"
- Social networking sites are a 'modern form of madness'
- Getting Intimate on Facebook
- Pope Benedict's 43rd World Communications Day Message (2009)
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
- How the Internet Gets Inside Us
- Children are happier with their virtual lives and not the real world
- Chris Bowler: "I struggle greatly to focus on one task for any length."
I will be posting more about the themes the Pope highlights in this message in the coming months. I think these issues have been on many people's minds (mine included), with much more frequency, now that social media has begun to truly pervade people's entire lives.