The Pope critiques digital dualism

220px-Benedykt_XVI_(2010-10-17)_4As regular readers of the blog will know, we’re strong critics of those who separate the online and offline into distinct and independent realities (something Nathan Jurgenson coined as ‘digital dualism’ back in February 2011).

With a daily barrage of opinion pieces describing the internet as “imaginary” or “fake, and calling for people (and particularly the younger generation) to start living in the “real world”, unfortunately it seems the idea they exist in the same reality remains quite radical.

So we were pleasantly surprised to see the Pope himself had criticised this misconception in a message to church leaders today.

Pope Benedict XVI warned that social media is not a virtual world which can be ignored, stating:

The digital environment is not a parallel or purely virtual world, but is part of the daily experience of many people, especially the young.

Social networks are the result of human interaction, but for their part they also reshape the dynamics of communication which builds relationships: a considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there.”

His point that social networks “also reshape the dynamics of communications” is something we touched upon in a recent post in which we examined how the potential to document our lives online means that a status update on Facebook, Tweet or Instagrammed photo doesn’t just become a record or reflection of our behaviour but a direct cause of it.

Finally, the conclusion that a “considered understanding of this environment is therefore the prerequisite for a significant presence there“, is worth reiterating and also applies to us as social media researchers.

We have to understand and think critically about how and why people use these networks  and that’s why we believe it’s necessary for us to be active on social media ourselves.