Digital world leaves some ‘hyperconnected and alone,’ Vatican official says

18 Aug 2022

By Contributor

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

Paolo Ruffini, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication, speaks at a news conference at the Vatican in this 4 October 2018, file photo. People are connected online and are also alone, Ruffini said in a 16 August address at the SIGNIS World Congress in Seoul. SIGNIS is an organisation of Catholic media professionals. Photo: CNS/Paul Haring.

Good journalism has to be creative and promote communication that focuses on dialogue, intelligence and helping build active communities, said Paolo Ruffini, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.

Mr Ruffini continued by saying the challenge of good journalism is to find new ways for a new kind of communication by “focusing on dialogue rather than on marketing of ideas, on intelligence as a moral category rather than on fanatical moralism of the crowd.”

“This calls for creativity, capable of reaching people where they are living, finding opportunities for listening, dialogue and encounter. We need to return to the simplicity and enthusiasm of the Acts of the Apostles,” he said in his 16 August speech to members of Signis, the World Catholic Association for Communication.

The Signis World Congress was taking place online and in-person in Seoul, South Korea, 15 to 18 August with the theme, Peace in the Digital World. Vatican News published excerpts of Ruffini’s talk on 16 August.

Ruffini reminded his audience that Pope Francis commented on some of the problems with social media in his message for the 2019 World Day of Social Communications.

He said, quoting Pope Francis, how these networks are not automatically synonymous with a healthy community; too often, their identity is “based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group.”

Too often “we define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice” and “what ought to be a window on the world becomes a showcase for exhibiting personal narcissism,” he said, citing the Pope Francis.

The paradox of today, he said, is that “we are hyperconnected and also alone.” The problem arises “when there is no longer communication, but only connection.”

“We need to question ourselves, to make a personal and collective examination of conscience,” he said, as well as to seek answers to such questions like, “How is it possible to be simultaneously hyperconnected and terribly alone? What is missing from our connection that can bridge this loneliness, and that is strong enough to endure over time?”

“The only way to respond to the challenge of technology,” he said, “is not to think of it as an idol, but also not to demonise it. Not to believe that it has the task of redeeming humanity” or that it will be the source of “its perdition.”

He appealed to all Catholic communicators, Catholic journalists and men and women of goodwill working “in the difficult and great field of communication, inviting them to be “protagonists of a new humanism, embodied in active and participatory communities. We can weave a new idea of citizenship.”