Well, doubtless Al Gore will be miffed by this statement from Pope Francis:
The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.
In a message for the 48th World Communications Day (who knew?) Pope Francis celebrates communication on the net while pointing to problems:
In a world like this, media can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all. Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity. The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another. We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect. A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive. Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances. The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity. This is something truly good, a gift from God.
This is not to say that certain problems do not exist. The speed with which information is communicated exceeds our capacity for reflection and judgement, and this does not make for more balanced and proper forms of self-expression. The variety of opinions being aired can be seen as helpful, but it also enables people to barricade themselves behind sources of information which only confirm their own wishes and ideas, or political and economic interests. The world of communications can help us either to expand our knowledge or to lose our bearings. The desire for digital connectivity can have the effect of isolating us from our neighbours, from those closest to us. We should not overlook the fact that those who for whatever reason lack access to social media run the risk of being left behind.
PopeWatch has a less exalted view of the internet than Pope Francis. It sometimes seems to PopeWatch that, other than endless cat videos and as a forum for arguing with distant strangers at all hours, the most striking feature of the internet is how it shrinks the necessity for actual human contact. With a few clicks of a mouse and a keyboard, commerce, entertainment, education, etc. are literally at our fingertips without the necessity of actual face to face involvement that life used to require. There is certainly no putting this particular genie back into the bottle, but the literal dehumanizing of common activities is something to regret, rather like the realization of a farmer circa 1938 that it was time to trade in his cherished horse drawn wagon for a truck that would never have the beauty and majesty of his horses. We communicate around the globe in seconds, have access to information that no library would ever be capacious enough to hold and can be entertained by endless videos, but unless we have loved ones we can see and touch to share our wonder and delight, we are poor creatures indeed. The internet will never be a substitute for normal human contact as Pope Francis notes: We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves. We need to love and to be loved. We need tenderness. The internet, like most things on this Earth, will be what we make of it, no more and no less.