Pope Commends Social Networking but Warns of Risks
Pope Benedict XVI commended the social networking world today (Jan. 24) for keeping friends and other cultures closely connected, but also warned of its dangers from replacing direct human contact, constructing a false image of oneself and succumbing to self-indulgence.
The 83-year-old pontiff compared the modern changes in communication to the Industrial Revolution and how it brought about a profound transformation in both the means of production and the lives of workers.
"New technologies are not only changing the way we communicate, but communication itself," Benedict said in a message called "Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age" for the Catholic Church's World Day of Communications. "The spreading of information and knowledge is giving birth to a new way of learning and thinking, with unprecedented opportunities for establishing relationships and building fellowship."
Benedict said the use of social networking embraces new forms of interpersonal relations and self-awareness, but it inevitably poses questions about how to act properly and stay true to oneself.
"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," Benedict said.
He addressed this point by raising a few questions, such as whether the virtual world encourages people to be less attentive when around others in their everyday lives.
"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?"
Ultimately, he concluded that social networking should not be a substitute for connecting with others face to face.
"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."