Facebook is fine, says Pope Benedict, but real faces are better
Social networking sites such as Facebook offer Christians a 'great opportunity' to connect, Pope Benedict said Monday, but it should 'not take the place of direct human contact.'
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Although the average church in America has about 75 weekly attendants, many of the larger churches today offer digital streaming of their services, says Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The digital world, he says, has become an important supplement to physical worship.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Pope Benedict XVI
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Open up your Bible and turn on your cellphone
For example, at Mr. Anderson's Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minn., the congregation is encouraged to turn on their cellphone when the service begins. A number projected at the front of the sanctuary allows parishioners to text questions to the pastor, who answers a few at the end of service.
"There are always naysayers, but younger evangelicals have largely embraced social media," he says, adding that older evangelicals are increasingly streaming services on the Internet when they can't travel to the church. "We have significant numbers of people who are older who are coming to church over the Internet."
In past messages for the World Day of Communications, such as in 2009, the pope has welcomed social networking sites while cautioning that they can also isolate people from real interaction. Unique to this year’s message seemed to be a call for authenticity in the digital world, where it can be easy to hide behind a screen name or online profile.
"In the search for sharing, for 'friends,' there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself,” the pope said, without mentioning Facebook or Twitter by name.
While social networking sites such as Facebook have facilitated and played an important role for some in their search for authenticity, says Hofer, she agrees the problem of authenticity is a "very big issue for college kids."
And though students once left behind high school friends when they came to college, now they are expected to be in 24-hour communication with hometown friends and family, as well as their new college network of friends.
"It's exhausting," she says.
It's also affecting the way people communicate. The Monitor, in the cover story "Tech Becomes Us," found that "technology may be determining not just how we spend our time: It actually may be 'rewiring' the way we think, how we experience the world around us."