... and then the Pope commits hilarious unintentional irony, abetted by Will Heaven of the Catholic Herald, warns of lonely obsessions ... re Facebook - blog by Gurdur

 




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... and then the Pope commits hilarious unintentional irony, abetted by Will Heaven of the Catholic Herald, warns of lonely obsessions ... re Facebook
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Posted 07-Feb-2011 at 04:40 PM (16:40) by Gurdur
Updated 07-Feb-2011 at 05:20 PM (17:20) by Gurdur

Too funny to pass up; Will Heaven, a contributor on the Catholic Herald UK newspaper and website, has a column up praising the current Pope Benedict XVI (Ratzinger) as being right to warn about the dangers of "lonely obsessions" regarding ..... Facebook, of all things.

Will Heaven's piece, and the Pope's words, both miss several points and also are unintentionally ironic. The problem with Facebook itself is not "loneliness"; it's that it can be used, and has often being used, to serve teenager social bullying and pecking-orders. That's not a lonely obsession; nor is the concommittant danger of amplification of teenager angst and lack of self-esteem (for example, see how bulimia rates may be amplified by Facebook message culture). Will Heaven manages to describe a little of that problem without realising the irony in the mischaracterization he perpetuates. A little aloneness can sometimes do some people good rather than harm.

Then, the Pope himself wrote that one must avoid "enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to the virtual world".

Ooooooooer. Remind me again about Christian separatism; or if you want to object and say that that is more of a Protestant failing than a Catholic failing, then I will remind you that many, many Catholic clergy live a very lonely life; not only does the Roman Catholic church pay its clergy usually substantially less than what (for example) stipendary clergy are paid by the Church of England, but owing to the compulsory celibacy (much disliked by Roman Catholic theologians), Catholic priests most of the time have no families to retreat to on a daily basis. There are good reasons why more priests cross from the Roman Catholic church to the Church of England than in the opposite direction with the Ordinariate and so on. Being a Catholic clergyman very often qualifies for being a "lonely obsession", and I've personally known quite a few Catholic clergy who suffered from loneliness and social isolation. We won't even go into just how much of an obsessional loneliness professional theology can be. But I will point out yet again how much Christians often deliberately ignore other Christians' loneliness and troubles, as detailed by the Christian author Dwight Carlson in his book "Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those With Emotional Difficulties" (USA edition, British edition).

Then there's the whole "Reinvent the secular world and try to grab it for the sake of 'Christian' culture" thang; again, usually a Protestant thang, but then there's Will Heaven and the Pope arguing for a counter-culture Catholic Christian mirror of a corner of the net, including ... Facebook.

Dear me. So much for the (unintentionally ironic) aspects from one side; the aspect from the other side is that technology is simply amoral technology, and Facebook is whatever purpose you put it to. There are for example the famous Facebook organizings of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt (as well as elsewhere), and Facebook is often used for some very good articles (like this one or this one).

Will Heaven adds to the whole some rather off-track snark about Stephen Fry (Fry makes a joke, so Heaven snarks about Fry being overly self-indulged; it looks much more like simple envy on Will Heaven's part), and then some snark about "the Vatican’s website. It looks like it was designed by an artistically challenged librarian".

Leaving aside I've actually personally known several librarians (I do get around; I'm quite social) who were quite good at web design, and who were also quite social, Will Heaven may well be correct in condemning the web design of the Vatican's site. Never mind; as with Twitter, Facebook, the web itself, web design, Christmas, life, the whole shebang, the Vatican and Catholics can as ever always appropriate from the secular world for better usage and design, and as ever pass it off as their own idea.



Trackback used: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/comm...ook/trackback/


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  1. Old Comment
    Hi Gurdur. I think I have to disagree with you that the technology is amoral. Marshall Macluhan demonstrated that any technology will promote certain values and play down or ignore others. The medium is also the message and so not morally neutral. This explains, for example, Socrates' (I think it was) aversion to writing (it replaced communal memory and placed power in the hands of a literate elite) and the medieval church's aversion to printing (it democratised, but also individualised, the dissemination of knowledge and opinion).

    Facebook and other social media are no different. they extend our capabilities in some area, allow us to do things that were either impossible or economically impractical before. But they also downplay or dispense with other capabilities that we previously took for granted. It is perhaps not surprising that some find this disturbing. But responding simply with angst is not going to serve much purpose. The media are here, the genie is out of the bottle and people will use them regardless. So Christians, like others subscribing to a belief ( or lack of belief) system, will have to come to terms with it and use the media to do what Christians do.
    Posted 08-Feb-2011 at 02:54 AM (02:54) by Revsimmy
  2. Old Comment
    Gurdur's Avatar
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Revsimmy View Comment
    Hi Gurdur. I think I have to disagree with you that the technology is amoral. Marshall Macluhan demonstrated that any technology will promote certain values and play down or ignore others. The medium is also the message and so not morally neutral. This explains, for example, Socrates' (I think it was) aversion to writing (it replaced communal memory and placed power in the hands of a literate elite) and the medieval church's aversion to printing (it democratised, but also individualised, the dissemination of knowledge and opinion).

    Facebook and other social media are no different. they extend our capabilities in some area, allow us to do things that were either impossible or economically impractical before. But they also downplay or dispense with other capabilities that we previously took for granted. It is perhaps not surprising that some find this disturbing. But responding simply with angst is not going to serve much purpose. The media are here, the genie is out of the bottle and people will use them regardless. So Christians, like others subscribing to a belief ( or lack of belief) system, will have to come to terms with it and use the media to do what Christians do.
    These are very valid points of yours, RevSimmy, and I shall reflect on them for a while before answering and arguing with them; I shall then probably make a new blog post tackling your points. It will take me a couple of days, so please pardon the wait.
    Posted 08-Feb-2011 at 09:26 AM (09:26) by Gurdur Gurdur is offline
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