By Fr. Joselito Jopson, MA Comm. Arts, SICL
« “We are members one of another” (Eph 4,25).
From social network communities to the human community” »
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, called on all the faithful to promote the use of the Internet in the service of encounter between persons and solidarity among all in his message for the 53rd World Communications Day slated to be celebrated on Ascension Sunday in the Philippines on June 2, 2019.
Dubbed with the theme, “’We are members one of another’ (Eph 4: 25), From social network communities to the human community”, he presented the movement from the dynamism of social media to the net of authentic personal human relationships using three metaphors: net, community, and the body its members.
First metaphor: the net
Though acknowledging the important role of the Net, the Holy Father described the media environment as “so pervasive as to be indistinguishable from the sphere of everyday life.” He said that it is has proven to be one of the areas most exposed to disinformation and to the conscious and targeted distortion of facts and interpersonal relationships, which are often used to discredit people.
The “net” which was the basis of the Internet to begin with, “is a multiplicity of lines and intersections that insure its stability in the absence of a center, a hierarchical structure, and a form of vertical organization.”
“We need to recognize how social networks, on one hand, help us to better connect, rediscover, and assist one another, but on the other, lend themselves to the manipulation of personal data, aimed at obtaining political or economic advantages, without due respect for the person and his or her rights,” explained the Holy Father.
2nd metaphor: the community
From the anthropological point of view, the net also symbolizes community that is much stronger if it is cohesive and supportive, animated by trust, and pursues common objectives.
Unfortunately, social media communities are not automatically synonymous with community. “Often, they remain simply groups of individuals who recognize one another through common interests or concerns characterized by weak bonds … We define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice (ethnic, sexual, religious, and other) … The net becomes an instrument to exhibit personal narcissism,” the Pope observed.
Exposing the illusion that social web can completely satisfy relationships, the Pope warned: “Young people run the risk of becoming social hermits who risk alienating themselves completely from society.” He underscored the serious responsibility to promote its positive use through a third metaphor.
3rd metaphor: the body and its members
Quoting from Ephesians: “For we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25), the Holy Father stressed that “this is our identity, based on communion and on “otherness”. “We are members of one body which head is Christ; what we learn from Christ leads us to discover otherness in a new way, an integral part and condition of relationship and closeness,” the Pope clarified.
Stressing on the communion of love among the Divine Persons of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Father called on all to invest in relationships, in the interpersonal nature of humanity in and through the network.
“From God who is Trinity, the person is distinguished from the individual. In order to be myself, I need others. The person now has a face turned toward the other and engages with others. Our life becomes more human, less individual and more personal,” the Pope explained.
From “like” to “amen”
The Holy Father underscored the importance of “encounter in the flesh”: “Families meeting at table and looking into each other’s eyes … a church community coordinating all activities through the network and celebrates the Eucharist together … the net becoming an avenue to share experiences of beauty or suffering to pray together…” all these become resources for communion.
“To open ways to dialogue, for smiles and expressions of tenderness … this is the network that we want, to protect the communion of people who are free. Unity is not based on “likes”, but on the truth; on “amen”, by which one clings to the Body of Christ and welcomes others,” the Pope concludes.