University of Queensland researcher Dr Keith Harris disputed a warning against social networking by the Archbishop of Westminster, saying the internet doesn't necessarily push people to suicide, but a news outlet is supporting the Archbishop.
Suicidal people "are more likely to actually go to social networking sites, they are more likely to go to forums, they are more often searching for people who are similar to themselves," Dr Harris was quoted as saying by the Brisbane Times.
"That seems a driving force behind their internet use is reaching out to people in one way or another... they are looking for social support in one way or another."
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, recently hit out at social networking sites for "commoditising" friendship and "dehumanising" communication, in the wake of a 15 year old girl's suicide.
Dr Harris said the effect the Archbishop described was not exclusively the domain of the online world or social networking.
"That can happen but it's going to happen offline as well and it's got a lot more to do with a person's social skills or their coping skills rather than if they use the internet or not," he said.
But an opinion editorial in UK's Daily Telegraph, which first published the remarks by Archbishop Nichols, said the media frenzy in condemning the Archbishop and the Church has missed the validity of his point.
"If people actually bothered to read the story and read the quotes they would see that the archbishop actually has an impressive grasp of modern culture and cares deeply about its future," wrote the paper's religious correspondent Jonathan Wynne-Jones.
"His argument for those who didn't quite get it goes like this - email and text is a poor substitute for face to face conversations. Relationships suffer when there is a lack of personal interaction, and genuine friendship is being replaced by an obsession with collecting friends on websites such as Facebook and MySpace.
"Nowhere does he actually attack these websites, rather he acknowledges, rightly, that for most people they can help build a community, if not a fully rounded one.
"But, he argues, for people who put all their identity and self worth into these networks and collecting friends, and therefore are fairly vulnerable and fragile already, the ending of these friendships can have devastating effects, even leading to suicide.
"It is hard to see how anyone can dispute this."
FULL STORY @
Reaction to archbishop's Facebook comments prove he was right (The Daily Telegraph, UK)
Social networking 'not linked to suicide' (Brisbane Times)
UK Archbishop wary of dehumanised social networking
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