Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols has warned about the “dehumanizing” effects of modern communication, saying e-mails, text messages and social network sites alone cannot build “a rounded community.”
Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, he said an “excessive” or “almost exclusive” use of text and e-mails helps cause society to lose some of the ability to build the interpersonal communication necessary for living together and building a community.
"We're losing social skills, the human interaction skills, how to read a person's mood, to read their body language, how to be patient until the moment is right to make or press a point,” remarked Archbishop Nichols, the Catholic Primate of England and Wales.
"Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanizes what is a very, very important part of community life and living together."
"Facebook and MySpace might contribute towards communities, but I'm wary about it. It's not rounded communication so it won't build a rounded community," he told the Sunday Telegraph.
Community, defined as “a genuine growing together” and a “mutual sharing” in matters of some significance “needs more than Facebook," the archbishop commented.
The “trauma of transient relationships” is a key factor in some young people’s suicides, he argued. His words come just days after British high school student Megan Gillan killed herself after fellow students posted spiteful online messages about her appearance and clothing.
"They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they're desolate."
"It's an all or nothing syndrome that you have to have in an attempt to shore up an identity; a collection of friends about whom you can talk and even boast.
"But friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it's right."
Archbishop Nichols also voiced concerns about the loss of loyalty and the rise of individualism in British society. These forces threatened to undermine communities, he told the Daily Telegraph.
Linking individualism to efforts to legalize assisted suicide, he warned that the practice “seriously weakens the fabric of mutual responsibility within society” and encourages the marginalization of those who need care.
In his interview Archbishop Nichols also called on the government to support the traditional family by offering tax breaks to married couples and by requiring a “cooling-off” period before a divorce.