For this paragraph through number 50, we’ll be occupied by the theme of “The Illusion of Communication.” We begin with a pessimistic assessment of the digital age:
42. Oddly enough, while closed and intolerant attitudes towards others are on the rise, distances are otherwise shrinking or disappearing to the point that the right to privacy scarcely exists. Everything has become a kind of spectacle to be examined and inspected, and people’s lives are now under constant surveillance. Digital communication wants to bring everything out into the open; people’s lives are combed over, laid bare and bandied about, often anonymously. Respect for others disintegrates, and even as we dismiss, ignore or keep others distant, we can shamelessly peer into every detail of their lives.
While I don’t think this is inaccurate, I would stress that the roots of this are to be found in the combination of curiosity and communication in the social lives of human beings. If we had been free of the sins of gossip and detraction before the internet, I’d say Pope Francis is right to lay blame on “digital communication.” But I think this is an overreach on his part. Things like facebook are just sharper tools that what existed before computers.
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