There’s a lot to be said about networking – Facebook has numerous Christian sites, and there are also virtual churches, such as the one maintained by New Zealand’s Revd Bosco Peters on his Liturgy website; many locally-based priests, such as Revds Maggi Dawn, Malcolm Guite and Lesley Fellowes (all left) use Twitter and blogs to get their messages across. There’s also a Christian organisation called xxxchurch.com, so-named in order to try to divert people surfing for less salubrious delights and inform them about treatment options for addiction to online pornography.
On the other hand, a young couple sitting next to each other and communicating through text-messages can be a sad sight. Add to this the new phenomenon of people going to a party in order to message each other through Facebook, and one starts to see the Pope’s point when he writes that ‘It is important to always remember that virtual contact cannot and should not be a substitute for direct human contact with people at all levels of our society.’
New media have other drawbacks too: I stopped going onto Facebook when Jewish friends alerted me to the hate-sites it tolerates in the teeth of hosts of complaints, and many parents live in fear of the ‘Facebook Party’, whereby a teenager gives out too much information of the time and place of their birthday bash and finds half the town attending. A recent Miss France (Kelly Bochenko, above) found out to the cost of her crown that ill-advised pictures taken on a phone and put on the web stick around.
New media have changed the communications game, and are here to stay. They can be a force for good when used with discretion, as Benedict indicates: ‘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.’
So, if we meet on the street, stop awhile and let’s talk face-to-face!
Unless I’m on my mobile…
The above article was the editorial for February's Mill - Ed.