"...The accessibility of mobile telephones and computers, combined with the global reach and penetration of the internet, has opened up a range of means of communication that permit the almost instantaneous communication of words and images across enormous distances and to some of the most isolated corners of the world; something that would have been unthinkable for previous generations. Young people, in particular, have grasped the enormous capacity of the new media to foster connectedness, communication and understanding between individuals and communities, and they are turning to them as means of communicating with existing friends, of meeting new friends, of forming communities and networks, of seeking information and news, and of sharing their ideas and opinions. Many benefits flow from this new culture of communication: families are able to maintain contact across great distances; students and researchers have more immediate and easier access to documents, sources and scientific discoveries, hence they can work collaboratively from different locations; moreover, the interactive nature of many of the new media facilitates more dynamic forms of learning and communication, thereby contributing to social progress... "
The Pope wants to point out, in a propositional and constructive tone, some of the potential that these new digital technologies
open to those who use them and who “live” them.
He begins by listing some of the typical characteristics
of these technologies:
- the accessibility of cell phones and the internet
- capillarity of the internet
- worldwide reach of the internet
These characteristics open up new potential:
- multiple avenues for instant communication with others, even at great distance.
Digital technologies allow users, through specific ways, to share the same place and time. Therefore the users, though there is great distance between them, are able to maintain and keep up a relationship through the new technologies, thanks to the sharing of a sort of “atmosphere of communication”. In this atmosphere the users are not just technology users, characters in relationship and communication; they are persons in some “true” sense, even if they are filtered through a technological interface.
- possibilities for young people to meet new people and communicate in new ways
Through the new technologies young people go beyond the usual meeting places and gatherings. In this way new places lead to new ways of communicating (various, comprised of audio messages, videos, photos, instant messaging, teleconferences, etc.) creating new meetings and new ways of relating.
If before the only way of communicating was through letters, the telephone and face to face meetings, now young people can experience a new “re-mediation” of these “old tools”. Email, online chat, video conference, SMS, social networks, discussion forums thus become the new channels of communication among young people. - possibilities to know each other better
Knowing new people, throughout the world, finding friends who share the same religion, culture and manners as us, opens the way not only to a greater spread of information and knowledge, but also to an ever greater reciprocal understanding. Above all young people, naturally open to friendship
and the acceptance of others and those at a distance, can take advantage of the universal dimension of new technologies to better understand their own friends, even on the other side of the world. By reducing the geographic distance, they can thus tear down walls of incomprehension and ignorance, of distrust and separation. - new possibilities to create new communities of friends
Adults often complain about young people’s tendency to close in on themselves, in a type of narcissistic individualism. New technologies that have their basic concept in words like “friendship” and “community” can help young people once again find the idea of community and of open friendship with others. Obviously bearing in mind the problems that can be connected to the use of these new technologies, there nevertheless remains open concretely to our young people a new space in which they can experience the “possibility” of friendship as a value that unifies and gives life substance. - Possibilities to have more information and news about the world
Young people have an avid desire for information and news. However the traditional instruments of information do not always manage to meet their desire, which is sometimes even hidden. The internet and new technologies can provide young people many sources of knowledge and information, even alternatives to the more common news agencies, which at times are not immune to the tendency toward uniformity and to the oversimplification of news, rather than a deep analysis of it. Through the internet young people have the possibility to access news from across the world, provided by sources that are truly trustworthy because they are present in the place, sometimes managing to have an understanding of the reality of the facts that would otherwise be hidden to them. The internet can thus also become an educational tool, to stimulate in young people the thirst for knowledge and thus educate them in a new spirit of participation and co-responsibility in the things of the world and people’s needs. - Possibilities to share opinions and ideas
The internet does not only offer information. Online, above all, you can create important places for idea sharing
. These can be places where ideas are not only proposed or listed in a dogmatic fashion, but where they can be truly shared. Ideas online thus create authentic “pathways to sharing” mostly through the “personal experience” of the online meeting, which becomes added value, also in function of Christian witness. There are other possibilities the internet offers:
- stay in contact with even distant family members
- interactive functionality which facilitates learning
- social progress stimulated by the spread of new technologies and by a greater possibility for knowledge and learning