Laudato Si 47: The Internet

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website.

47. Furthermore, when media and the digital world become omnipresent, their influence can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.

My honest sense is that while this is generally true, it doesn’t have to be true. The digital world isn’t far out of adolescence. Wisdom, thoughtfulness, and generosity are possible online. I think a lot of people haven’t learned how to do it.

In this context, the great sages of the past run the risk of going unheard amid the noise and distractions of an information overload. Efforts need to be made to help these media become sources of new cultural progress for humanity and not a threat to our deepest riches. True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and generous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventually leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution.

“Mental pollution” seems like an essentially Francis saying.

Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature.

Mmm. Maybe. We do lack what is communicated face-to-face, but I think the symbolism, if understood as part of a developing language, is fine as long as we realize that it doesn’t replace person-to-person contact.

I agree with these plusses and minuses:

Today’s media do enable us to communicate and to share our knowledge and affections. Yet at times they also shield us from direct contact with the pain, the fears and the joys of others and the complexity of their personal experiences. For this reason, we should be concerned that, alongside the exciting possibilities offered by these media, a deep and melancholic dissatisfaction with interpersonal relations, or a harmful sense of isolation, can also arise.

What do you think? Has the internet become a location for introverts? Or worse, for misfits? My sense is that people still communicate in real life. But the digital world offers an option that might be more attractive to many persons.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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