"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."
-- Pope Francis
So the pope just beat down trolls. You've gotta love that.
I'll say this about Pope Francis: More than any other recent pope who preceded him and likely more than any 77-year-old man you can think of, he has a truly impressive knack for feeling the pulse of the world as it's happening right now. He tends not to speak in antiquated generalities but in very specific terms about the issues facing us as a global society in the year 2014. That's commendable in so many ways, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the basic belief system that drives Francis's worldview.
What's fascinating about the pope's comments on social media hostility is that while they may seem like small potatoes in that they address an issue that's relatively unimportant in the great scheme of things, that just couldn't be further from the truth. The way we communicate with each other determines almost everything that springs from that communication -- in other words, it determines everything. If we misunderstand and miscommunicate, we're all pretty much screwed. And Francis is absolutely correct when he says that the technology that allows us to talk to each other has outpaced our own ability to often do so calmly and rationally.
Through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter -- and, yes, even through texting, e-mail and writing online like I'm doing right now -- we've removed the need for context and contemplation as a prerequisite to opening our big mouths and can suddenly spout an opinion to each other or to the world, occasionally with dire but all-too-avoidable consequences, without giving it, literally, a second thought. There are so many media options out there that it's possible to live safely inside our own bubbles of confirmation bias and never have to hear something that challenges us; meanwhile, we've fractured and fragmented our communication skills to fit the new model of speaking, one that only requires 140 characters with as few vowels as possible. Our brains really haven't evolved as quickly as our ability to express ourselves. As I've said before, quite a few times, when I complain about internet outrage, we're officially a nation of knee-jerks.
Instinctive fury and self-righteousness is an easy thing to tap into. Now it's often the easiest thing to release. And sometimes that feels like it's eating our culture alive.