24 Jan 2019
Communicating in the network: a language to learn again
(ANS – Rome) – It is a fact that digital communication is a challenge for the Church. In the last Synod of Bishops, the network is spoken of as a space of evangelization, like a continent to explore, like a new place to live. The old “information highways” have now become true “constellations of content”, with about 1,400 million websites on the network and their number grows exponentially, while every day new virtual communities of meetings and discussions arise according to the different tastes and needs of people.
The social networks are the today’s main protagonists: it is estimated that Facebook alone has 2.2 billion active users every month, while Instagram has over one billion.
These so-called virtual communities have put us in a world where we live bombarded by the opinions of others. What seemed to be the total conquest of freedom of expression has meant that a part of citizenship feels increasingly invaded, pressed upon and made to feel uncomfortable. Pressure groups organized in networks – whether feminists, left-wing or right-wing activists, and the like – have begun to commit intolerable excesses through real digital lynchings, petitions for boycotting, gathering signatures. Justice has been democratized and the silent majority stoically support the ruthless voice of arrogant and closed minorities.
During the days of the Synod, it was recalled that the digital world is “a space for people and not for cables”, and Pope Francis reiterated: “We are members of one another” (Eph 4:25).
Social networks facilitate communication and the exchange of ideas, but do not erase or cancel the basic principles of good manners, civic coexistence and respect, which should always prevail among people, the result of a model of “constructive” communication based on the rights of people. And the first of these rights is undoubtedly respect for the freedom of opinion, even if different from mine.
A challenge for us is to learn again a language of communion and to give space to respect and generosity that allow a more transparent communication, a communication that recognizes the value of the vision of our interlocutors and that facilitates the slow emergence of truth. Learning to know this language means moving towards a type of communication that is built on the basis of real information, dialogue and mutual understanding.
From this point of view social networks are emerging as a powerful tool of transformation at various levels, generating creative ideas, which allow us to think together with solutions for different problems.
In the 90s, at the beginning of the Internet, we all thought that the network would allow us to create a new, more democratic, free and open society. Time has shown us that this cannot be the result of an electronic platform alone, but that it derives from the will of people who are truly willing to work together to achieve it.
We are living one of the most beautiful and productive moments in history. We have a long journey ahead of us, places never seen before, unknown landscapes … It is there that the Church has to go, without fear and with the desire to inhabit them. We must take possession of new languages and communication strategies, but above all we must leave behind our mental and discursive paradigms that articulate extemporaneous and inappropriate communication models, which do not allow us to communicate with the new generations.