Archbishop Criticizes Facebook, Social Networking Sites

The Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, has warned that Facebook and other social networking sites, as well as texting and e-mails are undermining true friendships.

Earlier this year, similar to Nichols' statement, Pope Benedict XVI warned against the dangers of possibly becoming addicted to technology, specifically social networking. His warning then was:

"It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop online friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbors and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation.

"If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development."

The comments made by Nichols follow the death of 15-year-old schoolgirl, Megan Gillan, a student at Macclesfield High School in Cheshire, who took a fatal overdose of painkillers last week after being bullied on the social networking site Bebo.

What Nichols said, however, resonates also with psychologists, such as my wife, who note that many are losing their communication skills. Nichols said:

"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."

He also pointed to transient relationships as a key factor in teenage suicide.

"Among young people often a key factor in them 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."

Interestingly, in May the Vatican launched a Facebook page for the Pope.