The Pope has given his blessing to social networking today, allowing the guilt-ridden Twits among us to relax a little now that our previously unholy posting of status updates has been finally given a papal nod of approval.
To celebrate World Communications Day, the Pope delivered an encyclical entitled “Truth, proclamation and authenticity of life in the digital age,” which said that there was a “extraordinary potential” offered in social networking, but showing that he hasn’t lost his knack for criticising the actions of the average person while being unable to control many of the priests under his authority, he also warned of the “risks” that the likes of Facebook and Twitter have to offer.
Social networkers must be wary of a number of new Deadly Digital Sins™, such as one-sidedness, false representation of oneself, excessive digital exposure, and self-indulgence. While not explicitly stating it, we imagine the penalty for such sinful tweeting is eternal damnation in an undisclosed fiery location that prevents communication in less than 141 characters.
He also warned of the danger of having more internet friends than real friends, which, if you look at the average Facebook profile, accounts for the majority of users. Benedict does not have a Facebook page himself, but if he did it’s likely he wouldn’t have to worry about having too many virtual friends.
“It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives,” Benedict said. After all, if you spend too much time online you won’t be going to Church.
The Pope, who starred in a number of Star Wars movies before his papacy (not really), said that we must all be “authentic and faithful” in the presentation of ourselves online and “not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.” The Real Steve Jobs probably doesn’t approve of this message.
Benedict previously approved of blogging by Catholics and admitted that there were many benefits to social networking, such as opening up “new horizons” of communication, but the numerous warnings suggest that the Catholic Church remains on guard against the constant criticism levelled at it over recent years for its numerous failings, many of which have been significantly highlighted through the use of social networking itself.
The full papal message can be read here.