“Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities, but I’m wary about it. It’s not rounded communication so it won’t build a rounded community. If we mean by community a genuine growing together and a mutual sharing in an interest that is of some significance then it needs more than Facebook. … 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. It’s an all or nothing syndrome that you have to have, in an attempt to shore up an identity, a collection of friends about whom you can talk and even boast. But friendship is not a commodity; friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it’s right.”

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England, suggests social networks add to adolescents’ suicide risks


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  • Jeff

    Our great dilemma..

    If first discovered USENET and didn’t think that anything could top it, when used in conjunction with email. Then came the web. It obviously allowed some things these other network applications did not. And it would take over a decade (and counting) of millions of people working with it to grasp what was/is possible.

    But it begs the question, what has changed since 1998 or so, and why?
    What institutions are failing/falling and being replaced?
    What will life be like without these institutions and what will replace them?
    What aspects of our culture will be affected and how is that going to affect us?

    The grand experiment continues but I have no reason to assume it will fail on it’s own. People love tools for the power it puts in their hands to express their own individuality, earn a living, find love, and look after offspring, and I know the net has helped me do exactly that for many years now.

    But I do wonder, for my children, if not guided through this minefield of a society we have today in modern cities, will they find the same riches I had to struggle and hope for, and help build for decades, that I did?

    They’ve grown up in affluence, surrounded by technology, protected from all manner of threats to their person, but still face the same life lessons (if sheltered from them longer) that I eventually had to myself. No free lunch, your life is what you make of it, can’t depend too much on others, those who hesitate, and many others… and if they grow up in a world without newspapers, theater, music education, sports programs, and public medicine, what will be there for them to replace it?

    I hesitate too; video games, Facebook, SMS/IM, video dating, twitter and others may well fail in some respects (depth, introspection, caring relationships) to replace the things our society, economy or government now seems unable to provide.

    I’ve noticed that many customs, attitudes, skills, music, games and ways of life, disappear as the generation that last cared about them die off. Newer generations will search out their own meaning to life, and do things we never dreamed, so there’s always that.

  • Robert J Hebert

    I suggest that the Catholic Church and all organized religions in their simplistic foundation on faith alone, their literal interpretation of fables and fairy tales, the corruption and hypocricy of their leadership that masks their true feelings and motives, and their predatory behavior toward juveniles are the true causes of suicide in our society among people of all ages. In addition, religion corrupts democratic government and tramples individual rights.

  • Robert J Hebert

    And… religion is the primary cause and continuation of war.

  • Robert J Hebert

    Give me a break… Facebook has done more to bring the members of my family and friends together than almost anything else.

  • Robert J Hebert

    Facebook is right up there with birthday cards and Xmas cards in creating a community. Would you consider them dangerous, too. I would take anything a religious leader says with a big grain of salt. Then forget it.

  • Paul

    Thanks for the screed, Mr. Hebert. Your bigoted intolerance and outright ignorance generate a lot of heat, but shed no light. Clearly, your hostility to religion and belief clouds your reasoning abilities (or perhaps they are merely feeble to begin with). To assert that these stated concerns are a mask for “their true motives” without any proof is just another form of hate speech. Also, it’s “hypocrisy”, not “hypocricy”, dumbass.

    Sadly, there are multiple instances in which bullying and other forms of abuse by peers have been major contributors to suicides by young people. Many schools have been forced to institute policies with regard to behavior toward peers on social networks in an effort to head off these situations. Of course, these behaviors occur off-line, but Facebook, MySpace and other networks have a reach and scope that make them far more insidious when abused.

    As a parent of three teens, I (along with my wife) try to monitor our children’s activities on these networks. It’s a difficult choice because, as Jeff reasonably points out, you need to balance their needs for independence and growth with protection from threats beyond their abilities to cope. The thoughtful expression of these concerns is something that should be applauded, not shouted down by anti-religious fundamentalists such as yourself.

  • Jim Anderson

    Yes, Mr. Hebert, we get it – you hate religion.

    So what do you think of the point brought up in the quote?

    Do social networks contribute to adolescents’ suicide risks?

  • Jim Wilson

    I think this comment from the Archbishop is incredibly insightful and appropriately cautionary. I’m the father of three teen girls. All three are great kids! Good grades, active in sports, do their chores (mostly), loved/loving within our family. However, some of greatest challenges my wife and I have had with them have included social media.

    First (about 5-6 years ago), it was just email and IM. Seeing teens worry about who’s online and when, forwarding comments to unintended recipients, kids impersonating others, even bullying. For my wife and me, we had to begin establishing rules and monitoring around when IM or email was allowed, judging whether was being used for collaboration on school work (sometimes) or to keep tabs socially (most of the time).

    Next was MySpace. Having a profile seemed a rite of passage, a marker about who was “in” and who wasn’t. I watched as nearly all of my daughters’ eighth grade class created profiles, and clearly had no clue about online safety, confidentiality and the permanence of what they believed to be “private” online “conversations.” We cautiously allowed our daughter to join (with me as her first “friend” to monitor her activity). However, we soon had her delete the profile as we witnessed the near-obsessive draw for her the MySpace had become. Gradually, we re-entered the social media fray…

    Now, with texting, Facebook, Twitter and so many others adding to the mix, it’s never been tougher for a parent to discern the how to most effectively guide or monitor the “appropriate” use of these social media. The desire for teens to be “cool” or included via social media are even more visible and pervasive. Is it appropriate to be “online” 24/7? To “chat” with someone they barely know? To cuss or use provocative innuendo in writing or photos (e.g. on a FB message)? Most of us would argue not. But where do we draw the line between healthy and risky behavior using social media? And how can we as parents effectively monitor this?

    Like Mr. Hebert, I’ve personally had a blast connecting with family and “finding” old high school and college friends, former colleagues, and current business and social networks. I have 100s of “friends” on Facebook and LinkedIn. I read about a friend/acquaintance or make a comment/update several times each week. I even text, mostly with family and with a few work colleagues and friends. But maybe 5-10 a day. But most teens send 100 TIMES that amount of texts in a given day! Plus IM, Facebook, Twitter… they are virtually always “on.” That’s a lot of pressure.

    I fear that the pervasiveness of social media has displaced or distorted what it means to be in a relationship with someone, particularly for young people. As the Archbishop observed: “If we mean by community a genuine growing together and a mutual sharing in an interest that is of some significance then it needs more than Facebook. …” I agree. There is no substitute for the importance of looking into someone’s eyes, hearing the tone in their voice, feeling the squeeze of their hand in building trust. And, as he concludes: ” friendship is not a commodity; friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it’s right.” Absolutely.

  • Bryan Harrison

    The Catholic Church would do well to ponder the beam in its own eye before inventorying the motes in Facebook’s. For example, religion is a prime mover in the suicide of LGBTQ teens. Catholicism has traditionally acquired such kids as slave labor when it fails to destroy them outright, and American and Irish Catholics in particular are currently very familiar with the outcome of creating a vast cadre of twisted, self-loathing clergy, one which the Church has paid uncounted millions to create, conceal, and spin.

    But still, it’s a good question, even if it’s sickeningly hypocritical of Nichols to ask it.

    “…friendship is not a commodity…” That sounds lovely, but what does this mean for those of us who live under unconstrained capitalism? Under capitalism, _everything_ is a commodity. That’s what capitalism is: the commodification of every thought, feeling, and molecule, without exception or even discrimination. To paraphrase, capitalism is at its core the worldview that sells everything and values nothing, or perhaps more to the point, acknowledges no distinction between price and value. Given its long history of salvation for sale, it’s deliciously ironic of the Catholic church to criticize this, but doublethink is always the foundation above which the edifice of religion totters.

    In any case, none of this has anything to do with social networking sites or technology, per se. Introspection, loyalty, and other aspects of deep character have never had obvious, quick payoffs. It’s never been realistic to expect young people to sustain much in the way of long-term goals: they have little long-term experience. But it’s even less so when the corporation – the dominant institution of our time – has a shorter attention span than an average child. Even quite young children are sometimes capable of thinking beyond the next quarter’s profits, but our society seldom does.

    I suspect the Catholic Church’s agenda for the Internet has little to do with “save our children”, which is after all merely a traditional bark with which to stampede the sheep. The Church has always correctly regarded the free exchange of information as a threat to its existence. At this point in history, it’s unclear how long any authoritarian regime can continue to exist when its victims are free to talk to each another. The usual propaganda tactics just don’t work when every citizen has equal access to communications.

    The way to control information and thereby culture turns out not to be restriction, but it’s opposite: glut. It’s the tidal flow of the meme that controls, not some obsession with individual facts. Thus far, the corporation is clearly the winning implementation of the ultimate pyramid scheme: selling our own selves back to us at a profit. By comparison, church, state, and other antiquated notions are barely in the running.

  • Markus Unread

    “They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they’re desolate.”

    And that’s different from high-school cliques how?

    I’d put money on “mean girls”, cruelty, bullying and bashing – amplified by broadcast TXT messages and slander pages.

    And I’d agree that the Catholic Church is the last place I would listen to about any social trends – no matter which one. They’ve had hundreds of years of practice honing the fine art of dispensing guilt. And that’s the least of their sins 🙂

  • stuart

    How interesting. The “real” enemy is a church and the economic model called corporation.

    Normally, most readers of GMSV mock control. Everything should be free; there should be no restraints.

    Our species is highly social and maintains a rough sort of order by imposing rules via religion and its kissing cousin, The Law. The point of order is to avoid continuous violence. After all, we can’t spend our days stealing our neighbor’s cattle, wives and so forth. The Elders, instead, decide who gets what.

    Well, the so-called social networks have managed to create an inhuman world, a volatile “space” inhabited by an odd and pathetic mix of fantasy, greed and hope that is quite separate from the actual presence, smell and movement of other members of our species.

    This creepy development has nothing to do with the way aggregates of our species function in groups called churches or corporations. It has everything to do with increasingly isolated individuals who’ve never had positive socializing and instead, live vicariously in front of a screen. They brag about pixels but are clueless about resolution.

    I’m 71 and won’t be able to outrun the various molecular developments within my OS for too much longer. So I’m going to the beach to be with my wonderful wife. We love birds and the beauty of the ocean. We bike early in the morning when that world wakes up in awesome beauty. At night, there are hundreds of families on the boardwalk, many, many with strollers. (Mainly Roman Catholic families from Philly and its suburbs. We are outliers–Protestants!)

    Take a moment and lay down the law to your kids. If you confiscate those damn gadgets and let their friends’ parents know that the game if over, you will be part of the solution.

    There is NO middle ground for compromise when it comes to impersonal electronic social networking. It’s just as addictive as narcotics and arguably more destructive.

  • Christian Taylor

    Sounds like a real moron to me. If kids are that devoid of mental intelligence, they should not be using a computer. They should be strapped in a bed getting nourishment from an IV drip.