When we heard that Pope Benedict XVI had prepared a statement on "Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age," we were concerned that Holy Father, like so many fathers before him, just wouldn't "get" social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
After reading the pontiff's message (issued Monday to correspond with the Vatican's 45th annual "World Day of Communications"), it's clear our fears were without merit. Benedict is cautiously optimistic about the Internet's capacity to bring people together, as long as the food truck-following and middle school crush-stalking never become surrogates for genuine human contact. He explains:
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...This dynamic has contributed to a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations. 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.
Young people in particular are experiencing this change in communication, with all the anxieties, challenges and creativity typical of those open with enthusiasm and curiosity to new experiences in life...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.
All in all, a nuanced take from a man who, as Reuters points out, doesn't even have a Facebook account.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.