Pope: Social media can be both help & hindrance

May 17, 2015 is the 49th World Communications Day. In anticipation, Pope Francis wrote a statement. An excerpt below:

Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families.

The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that “silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.”

The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters. By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, these “new possibilities”, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it.

— Pope Francis, Message for WCD 2015

So this is our call to action, for people of all faiths, or none: employ technology wisely, to share our stories, stay in contact, thank others, seek forgiveness, and open the door to new encounters.

Pope Francis chooses a perspective of optimism and opportunity:

The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.  This is something truly good, a gift from God.

This is not to say that certain problems do not exist. … While these drawbacks are real, they do not justify rejecting social media; rather, they remind us that communication is ultimately a human rather than technological achievement.  …

Effective Christian witness is not about bombarding people with religious messages, but about our willingness to be available to others “by patiently and respectfully engaging their questions and their doubts as they advance in their search for the truth and the meaning of human existence.”

— Pope Francis, Message for WCD 2014

Which reminds me of:

I often tell students that the history of new media has been shaped again and again by four key innovative groups — evangelists, pornographers, advertisers, and politicians, each of whom is constantly looking for new ways to interface with their public.

— Henry Jenkins, MIT’s Director of Comparative Media Studies Program, “Why media studies should pay more attention to Christian media”

And:

Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.

— Melvin Kranzberg, Georgia Tech professor of the history of technology, Kranzberg’s First Law

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