The Pope isn’t one give a blessing to something modern without coupling it with a warning. And so that is what Pope Benedict XVI did today, when he gave a qualified blessing to social media outlets like Facebook, but urged people to not let the technology replace real human contact.
The pontiff had already blessed online social media in a speech last year, although that time he had only briefly mentioned how sites like Facebook responded to people’s natural desire to connect with others. This time, he gave an entire speech around it, ominously titled, “Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age.”
The 83-year-old urged his audience to ask themselves who their neighbors are in social media. He warned against being available online all the time but “less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life,” according to Reuters. He also cautioned about the risks of depersonalization, alienation, and self-indulgence that social media might inspire.
For someone who doesn’t have a personal Facebook account, the Pope knew what he was talking about, but he now has an official page on the site that chronicles his activities, complementing Vatican’s new website, www.pope2you.net, prominently features access to an official Facebook application that lets you follow the Pope’s latest activities.
His contribution to the debate, however, sounds a little outdated. We’ve been discussing the dangers of letting social media take over your life for a while now, sometimes to deadly extremes. Perhaps his speech could’ve been more relevant if he had dedicated a few lines to discussing how social networks can help spread hate, as well as be agents of social change.
How long will it be before the Pope gets a personal Facebook account instead of just having a page possibly maintained by someone else?
Photo credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile