BY CARMEL PILCHER
Over the weekend, I happened to check my social network site to discover that I have a new great-nephew.
Not only has my niece given birth to her fourth child, but before my very eyes I was transported into the operating theatre to see Zane’s father cutting the umbilical cord. I glanced at the time of posting – this had happened within minutes of my viewing. And it had taken place a half a continent away.
Soon the messages started pouring in from relatives and friends all over the world. I sat in wonder, not just at the photo before me, but at the speed with which communication travels. The possibilities seem endless. And here I was gazing at surely one of the most intimate moments – a sight I could not have witnessed in any other way.
Social media is a marvellous thing, but, as we are constantly told, it is also fraught with danger and destruction. Reputations and sadly also lives are sometimes lost as a result of cyber bullying, and what’s the latest? Trolling? I’ve seen the television documentaries. I’ve also seen disturbing comments amongst my own ‘friends’ following a relationship breakdown or a disagreement.
For some it seems all their waking thoughts need to be recorded for a worldwide audience. And it could be argued that’s exactly what I am doing now! But at least I am selective, and I do ponder and review, not to mention rewrite, before I press the send button.
I recently heard a comment that there is no such thing as gradually getting to know a person anymore. When one is to meet a person for the first time, chances are they might already have done research to find out about them.
I have experienced this first hand. Twice (that I know of), I’ve been introduced to someone I haven’t met before, and in each case they’ve remarked: “Oh, I know all about you, I’ve looked you up on the internet”.
Having never felt the need to pursue this exercise personally, my curiosity eventually got the better of me so after the second remark I entered my own name into a search engine. I soon discovered this exercise is not for the faint hearted – at least in my case! What I read both disturbed and horrified me. Interestingly, most of the remarks came as a result of – although not sanctioned by – the blogs I write for CathNews.
Of course I know that once anything is downloaded onto the net, it is “out there” in the public domain and can be transported onto any site. And any public material runs the risk of being taken out of context and the nuances are often lost, especially, but not exclusively, when read by someone from another culture.
There is always the risk that a point of view or a remark can be misunderstood. And unless one chooses to engage further, there is often no right of reply. Any clarification is especially problematic when a blog is posted on various unknown sites.
Anyone can have an opinion. That mine was disputed did not concern me. In fact I value the ability to hear different views. How else do we learn? What does concern me is the slippery slope that some people take from debating a person’s ideas to deliberately attacking their character, or even dismissing the person altogether.
We currently live in a society where everyone is “fair game”, be they colleague, fellow student or even someone holding a significant office, including the leader of our nation. Unfortunately since I began writing this, we’ve had one more public example of such a scurrilous attack.
Disturbingly, when I sourced some of the more caustic comments that maligned me personally, I discovered that they were made by people posting on sites set up to maintain and safeguard the Catholic tradition. This left me wondering about the dignity of the human person and all the other rich values that we Christians uphold.
We are soon to begin to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council that called us to return to our roots. In a world where hatred and distrust continue to be evident not only amongst warring nations, but in in our own country as well, surely our greatest gift as Christians during this golden jubilee time is simply to love one another. I hope that when Zane grows to be an adult, he will want to be part of a church that reflects the loving face of God.
Carmel Pilcher is a Sydney based Josephite who works as a liturgical consultant.
Disclaimer: CathBlog is an extension of CathNews story feedback. It is intended to promote discussion and debate among the subscribers to CathNews and the readers of the website. The opinions expressed in CathBlog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference or of Church Resources.