Sunday, August 02, 2009

Facebook and the Bishop: never mind the content, feel the headlines.

Here's a puzzle. How does this:

"I think there's a worry that an excessive use or an almost exclusive use of text and emails means that as a society we're losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together and building a community.

We're losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person's mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point.

Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.

Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities, but I'm wary about it. It's not rounded communication so it won't build a rounded community...If we mean by community a genuine growing together and a mutual sharing in an interest that is of some significance then it needs more than Facebook." (Archbishop Vincent Nichols)

result in a headline like "Archbishop slams online friendships"? That's such a pathetic and lazy piece of journalism. Who needs a thoughtful debate about the interaction between real and virtual community when you've got such nice big fat pigeonholes to put people in?

The Times is even worse than Yahoo "Facebook drives teens to suicide, says Vincent Nichols". No it flipping well doesn't. Read what he says!!! Sure the headline may get more people reading the article, but it also makes them less likely to actually listen to Nichols actual words. However, just for balance, Ruth Gledhills blog is worth reading on this, where she makes the valid point that bullying on Facebook tends to be an extension of bullying in 'real life', so social networking sites are just one of many mediums which can be used for good or ill.

On a personal note, with a few exceptions all of my Facebook 'friends' are people I've met face to face and would consider to be friends anyway. I'm happier with the Twitter idea of 'followers' - the use of 'friend' to describe the relationship you have with someone through Facebook devalues friendship. As a way of keeping in touch with people who are already friends, social networking sites can be very helpful. But as Nichols says, if they become a substitute for face to face relationships (rather than an extension of them), then that's not good.

Update: excellent piece from Bishop Alan, who, as always, puts it much better than me.


  1. I presented on how we can use the web for Kingdom growth here.
    As with any of the things given to us as human beings, we can either use them for good or not - it's all about making Godly choices so really the arguments extended to facebook by Anglican Mainstream coverage of articles and the papers could apply to anything in life.
    Blessings :-)

  2. 'He said that relationships are already being weakened by the decline in face-to-face meetings and conversations over the phone.'

    And also by the strict requirement for celibacy among Catholic priests?

  3. The Archbishop also had a go at footballers who move for record transfer fees and wages, footballers like Kaka and Lucio, I presume.

  4. Depends which club he supports! Ronaldo is probably the most glaring example: he claims he's not interested in moving, Ferguson claims he wouldn't sell him to 'that lot', but in the end they both follow the money.

    Also depends what they do with the money once they've got it. But that goes for all of us.

  5. I blame the owners for the explosion in salaries of top players, not the footballers.

    In defense of Ferguson, the 'that lot' he sold them to were not exactly the same people as the 'that lot' that he would not sell a virus to.