The devil and the Holy water

Publish date 19-03-2022

by Gabriella Delpero

Parents, teachers and educators continue to be numerous who ask themselves (and pose to the so-called "experts") the fateful question / dilemma: are the pitfalls more worrying or the potential of the web more promising?

Is it true that the internet and social media, with their incredible charm, have brought us closer to those far away and away from our neighbors? To hear many of our kids would say no, on the contrary: today for them social networks are generally the most used, fastest and most effective way to maintain constant (sometimes uninterrupted) contacts with friends and peers. When I ask a teenager if she has friends and how she spends time with them, she usually replies that obviously she is "on her cell phone" to talk, meet and play with others.
After all, it happens to everyone to observe young people who never take their attention off their smartphones, they are perpetually “connected” and seem completely absorbed and captured in the intricate tangle of their virtual communications. Unfortunately, it also happens that we meet very young victims of cyberbullying, that hateful form of bullying that gives a virtual group the opportunity to make fun of a peer considered "different", and against whom one feels the need to unleash all sorts of gratuitous malice. In short, social yes or social no? Social as extraordinary means that allow us to communicate with the world and be more agile and creative in our relationships or social as potential and dangerous tools of isolation, suffering and death?
Children always and in any case in favor of the indiscriminate use of social networks and parents always and in any case against and critical?

When looking for an answer, the decisive point is always the same: build bridges and not walls, look for the elements of contact and not those of division. The world is not all black or white, reality is much more complex and has many shades. Even the parent-child or adult-young relationship has many facets and different tones of color, it is not "all right" or "all wrong". The same goes for the term "network". First possibility: nets have always been used by men essentially to catch fish and eat them.
So the expression "getting caught in the net" for fish (and for our kids) means certain death.
In today's common language, however, "being online" means being in relationship, being in contact, teaming up, creating new bonds and acquaintances. We are all part of a network and each of us is placed in one of the nodes. The questions then might become: Who do we want to connect with? And above all how? How much and for what purpose?

Even Pope Francis, in his message for the 53rd World Communications Day, wrote in 2019: «it may be useful to reflect again on the metaphor of the network [...] on the multiplicity of paths and nodes that they ensure the holding, in the absence of a center, of a hierarchical structure of a vertical organization. The network works thanks to the sharing of all the elements ». So the net itself is neither the devil nor holy water. It is an intertwining of threads that can act as a trap or as a link. It is up to us to use it intelligently and responsibly. Possibly remembering that trusting everyone is wrong, but trusting no one is impossible.

Gabriella Delpero
NP December 2021

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