Monday, 3 August 2009

Taking on the Archbishop

(By Richard Holway 12.00pm Monday 3rd Aug 09) This is the first time I have taken an Archbishop to task – either on HotViews or anywhere else. But Archbishop Vincent Nichols much reported criticisms today (See Facebook criticised by Archbishop) are just downright wrong.

“Archbishop Nichols said society was losing some of its ability to build communities through inter-personal communication, as the result of excessive use of texts and e-mails rather than face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations.
He said skills such as reading a person's mood and body language were in decline, and that exclusive use of electronic information had a "dehumanising" effect on community life.”
Yet again, people are labouring under the mistaken belief that social networking is a substitute for inter-personal communication."

It is not:

1 – All the research I have read (see table below) indicates that the more people (of all ages – not just youngsters) use social networking sites, the more they communicate face to face. Ie the more ‘sociable’ you are anyway, the more you tend to use ‘social networking’. It’s certainly true of my friends!

2 – Any additional time spent on social networking (indeed any kind of telecommunication) does not reduce face-to-face time. What it does do is reduce the time spent watching TV. I just cannot see that watching TV is more healthy!

3 – If my own Facebook usage and friends are anything to go by, they are all ultra social people. Indeed, today ALL my Facebook status updates reported on some kind of social intercourse which took place over the weekend.

4 – More and more I have noticed how social networking is used to arrange face-to-face contact. In other words it actually acts to encourage such activities.

5 – Of course, any activity taken to extremes is unhealthy. I can remember as a teenager being accused by my own parents of antisocial behaviour because of the time I spent alone in my bedroom playing my rock records. I can remember chastising my own kids for watching too much TV. “Why don’t you go out and do things like I did when I was your age” Except, that was a lie!

Personally I think that social networking could be a major source for good. For example, I am very keen to see how disadvantaged youngsters might be able to tap into the kind of networks used by the advantaged to help them get, for example, holiday jobs and internships.

I’m all for a debate. But please let’s base them on fact rather than fiction. But I guess that’s the day job of Archbishops anyway!

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