The head of England's Roman Catholic Church is worried that social networking is costing people &mdash especially teenagers &mdash their social skills. Is he right?
In an article published yesterday in the UK's Telegraph, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the man in charge at the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, blamed the Internet for causing things like bad community relations, shoddy friendships, and child suicides. "Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanizes what is a very, very important part of community life and living together," he said. And then: "Among young people often a key factor in them committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships.They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate." He was speaking in response to a recent incident in which 15-year old girl killed herself after a bout of bullying on Bebo.
I get where he's coming from, kinda. There is something deeply impersonal about the way information is relayed on social networks. In the past year, I've found out about half a dozen engagements, four weddings, two divorces, two deaths, and scores of newborn babies via Facebook updates. When I want to know what my friends are up to, I check their Twitter feed. Twitter is also where most intelligent daytime discussions take place &mdash why bother meeting someone for coffee to discuss current affairs when you can do the same with two hundred people at once on Tweetdeck? I don't remember any phone numbers anymore, let alone addresses or birthdays &mdash Facebook has all those answers, too. Maybe the Internet really is making me socially retarded. It must be even worse for kids who are growing up now and have never known an analog era.
I understand the Archbishop's concern, although I do think he's overreacting, especially with the transient relationships stuff. Relationships are transient everywhere, not just online &mdash in fact, hating and un-friending can be just as hurtful, if not more so, when they take place in the real world.
By the way, it appears &mdash although I haven't been able to verify whether this is his actual account &mdash that the Archbishop himself is on Facebook. So is the Roman Catholic Church. So if you want to ask him what he meant by "transient relationships," you could just send him a direct message. Or we can discuss it here in our very social online forum. Even better, grab a colleague or two, invite them out for a drink, and have a face-to-face conversation about it.
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