Vincent Nichols, head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, would prefer you stop relying on social networking technology so much. According to Nichols, Facebook, MySpace and constant SMS messages and email create shallow, "transient" relationships and cause people to lose"the ability to build interpersonal communication that's necessary for living together." And that could lead to suicide.
"Among young people often a key factor in their committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships. They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate," Nichols told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.
"Friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right... 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."
Personal story: I'm old enough to remember the times before the popularity of social networking sites, and my relationships haven't changed at all... with the exception of an ex-girlfriend who tracked me down through Facebook to ask, "Where's the money you owe me?" Other than that, I can keep up with updates of friends I'm too busy to see, as well as get back in contact with people from my past without any real effort. But almost all my Facebook contacts are "real life" friends as opposed to people I've "met" online, and there's a big difference between the two.
I'm a grown-ass man, so I'm not about to get shaken up by what happens on the internet -- even G4tv.com's commenters don't get under my skin, and some of you guys are pretty mean -- but I could see that people in their "formative years"could be seriously emotionally affected by social networking sites and the like. Realizing that you have to take the internet with a huge grain of salt only comes with experience, and kids/teenagers/young adults often lack the perspective needed to ignore internet negativity, and to realize that facebook friends aren't actually your friends. And young people do dumb things for dumb reasons, like kill themselves over MySpace messages.
As much as I hate to say it, in some ways, Nichols makes a pretty good point. I'm not sure what good it does, though. There's no getting the technology-genie back in the bottle, so I hope the Church decides to focus more on teaching people how to navigate the sometimes confusing online world as opposed to condemning it.
By the way, here's The Pope's Facebook page. Befriend him and be like, "OMG! Sweet hat! LOL!"