Pope warns of alienation risk in social networks

Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:32am EST
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict gave a qualified blessing to social networking Monday, praising its potential but warning that online friendships are no substitute for real human contact.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who does not have his own Facebook account, set out his views in a message with a weighty title that would easily fit into a tweet: "Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age."

He said the possibilities of new media and social networks offered "a great opportunity," but warned of the risks of depersonalization, alienation, self-indulgence, and the dangers of having more virtual friends than real ones.

"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," Benedict said in the message for the Catholic Church's World Day of Communications.

He urged users of social networks to ask themselves "Who is my 'neighbor' in this new world?" and avoid the danger of always being available online but being "less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life."

The vast horizons of new media "urgently demand a serious reflection on the significance of communication in the digital age," he said.

The pope did not mention any specific social networking site or application by name, but sprinkled his message with terms such as "sharing," "friends," and "profiles."

He said social networking can help "dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations" but he also offered a list of warnings.   Continued...

 
<p>Pope Benedict XVI waves to a crowd gathered in Saint Peter's square during his Sunday Angelus blessing at the Vatican January 23, 2011. REUTERS/Tony Gentile</p>