Is the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales using his opposition to social networks as a way of building his own profile? Archbishop Vincent Nichols has argued that MySpace and Facebook are the basis of “transient” friendships and can be a factor in suicide among young people as a result of relationships which have collapsed. The truth is that young people are vulnerable to relationship issues wherever and however they occur.
If the Archbishop, who was enthroned just two months ago as successor to the high profile Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor wanted headlines he got them. He wouldn’t be the first Catholic cleric to capture column inches via Facebook. Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples who openly takes a very different stance on social networks opened a Facebook site in November and within a few weeks gained 5,000 ‘friends’.
A more useful contribution from the cloth came from Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney who on the BBC Radio Today programme this morning, described social networks as “thin communities” which allow for freedom and social diversity where young people can “keep friendships alive”.
I think the important issue here is the relevance and importance of the expertise. When it comes to understanding new technologies and emerging communications channels we simply shouldn’t be turning to religious (or political) leaders for advice.