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Facebook is fine, says Pope Benedict, but real faces are better

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This isn't a new message from the pope but comes amid mounting concern from psychologists worldwide about the increasing ubiquity of social networking.

The pope warned as recently as November that the Internet risked increasing a "sense of solitude and disorientation" among "numbed" youths, a finding echoed the 2010 book "The iConnected Parent," cowritten by Barbara Hofer.

"Warnings like this from the pope make people more mindful of how to use technology in ways that enhance our lives rather than deplete them," says Professor Hofer, who teaches psychology at Middlebury College in Vermont.

"One of the big concerns is that college students are so busy on their cellphones, texting, talking to family and friends, e-mailing, Skyping … that there’s very little time left to sit and think and contemplate on what’s been told in class or what’s happening in their own lives. It’s not just a spiritual issue, but one of psychological well-being," says Ms. Hofer.

The Catholic Church dove head-first into social networking in 2009, launching a YouTube channel, Facebook page, applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the website www.pope2you.net to facilitate the pope's impact online. Other religions have taken the same track.

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