When you’re at the head of an ancient religion still prevalent throughout the western world in an age where it’s possible to grab information from across the planet in a moment’s time, you’ve got to choose your words carefully. If you’re the Pope of Catholicism, you’ve got to recognize that the bulk of the people that follow you are looking at your speeches that are published via the Internet. Thusly, you must speak in a way about this mode of information transfer in a way that’s both critical and kind. I give you Pope Benedict on the Internet.
It’s in a speech delivered yesterday that Benedict spoke highly and lowly of the Internet, especially centering his speech around what he calls “so called social networks,” saying they’re a way to reduce one-sided conversations and therefor self-indulgence:
In the digital world, transmitting information increasingly means making it known within a social network where knowledge is shared in the context of personal exchanges. The clear distinction between the producer and consumer of information is relativised and communication appears not only as an exchange of data, but also as a form of sharing. … On the other hand, this is contrasted with the limits typical of digital communication: the one-sidedness of the interaction, the tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world, the risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence”.
“Ever greater involvement in the public digital forum, created by the so- called social networks, helps to establish new forms of interpersonal relations, influences self-awareness and therefore inevitably poses questions not only of how to act properly, but also about the authenticity of one’s own being. …. 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. …
This message is part of a speech titled “Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age,” part of this year’s World Social Communications Day. The Pope went on to note:
I would like then to invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible. This is not simply to satisfy the desire to be present, but because this network is an integral part of human life. The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness.
So go forth and tweet wonderousness! And don’t forget to stay away from all those sins you’ve heard so much about, just because you’re on the Internet, it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to be evil. Just ask Google. See the full length of this Papal degree here.