Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

June 9, 2010


Fr. Peter Daly reveals his “luddite” side in opposing social networking.


            I don’t Tweet. I don’t twitter. I don’t Facebook. I don’t care.

            Moreover, I don’t blog or chat on line. I don’t have any real estate on MySpace.

            I think all this ersatz “social networking” on line is, at best, pointless and, at worst, dangerous.

            This is not my usual “luddite” rant.

            I know that Benedict XVI has encouraged the Church to use all the new social media. Even the Vatican is on Facebook.

            In the past I have written columns praising Catholic radio and television. You could even argue that this column is a sort of “blog.”

            My parish has an ambitious web site that is linked to all the major Catholic web sites. People in the parish have made a few videos and posted them on YouTube. Our teens are starting “video” ministry, to make video records of things like our retreats and parish events. All that stuff is useful within limits. I am not opposed to using the new media for real communication and evangelization.

            But this social networking stuff is nonsense.

            Twitter is a waste of time. Who cares that you are in the grocery store or sitting on your patio?

            My parishioners are constantly saying that their lives are distracted. So why distract them even more with pointless and ceaseless communication of trivia.

            You cannot possibly develop a serious thought in 135 words. You cannot continuously have something of value to say. You do not need to know continually what people are doing. Who cares? Nobody really.

            This is the very definition of the mundane. It is the exaltation of the quotidian. (Look it up.)

            All this chatting and posting of personal information can even be dangerous.

            Recently I got an e-mail claiming to be from a man who attends the meetings of our local Interfaith Council. It said that he was stranded in London, a victim or robbery. He had no passport, credit cards, money or cell phone. Unable to reach anyone from his family. He asked me to send $1400 to London so he could get a hotel room. It was all a hoax.

            Someone had hacked into this guy’s e-mail address book through his Facebook account and sent this request to everybody on the list.

            Some of the teenagers in our parish have found out what damage this chit chat on line can do. One young man shared pictures of himself on line. They went “viral” around his school and maybe around the world.  

            What ever happened to having real friends, not “virtual” friends?

            What ever happened to privacy and personal dignity?

            What ever happened to trying to elevated conversation about meaningful topics?  Why can’t people use real words, instead of idiotic abbreviations?

            But this isn’t just about taste and technology. There is a bigger problem.

            We are losing the sense of the sacred. We are losing the sense that we are sacred.

            Some things, like surgery or prayer, should not be interrupted by trivia.

            Recently I heard a confession that was interrupted three times by penitent’s mobile phone either texting or calling. I finally told him to come back when he was ready to make a confession with his full attention. This is nuts.

            I have even seen people texting during mass.  I understand doctors or EMT workers carrying phones into mass. But most people have no excuse.

            Some things, like prayer and surgery demand our full attention. 

            Put away the cell phone and concentrate on reality.