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Pope’s message to derailing communicators needs prop

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SOLILOQUY is no longer frowned at these days neither is the hitherto rare vista of encountering people walking busy streets with their ears stuffed and deaf even to blaring hoots of approaching automobiles or loud side calls. Such scenarios are now commonplace, and not many are willing to accept that they are signs of social disorder and generational emotional switch.

Often, these days, we suffer and sometimes die of loneliness whereas there are many people around us. In crowds, our offices, our business places and homes, we most times get lost these days, in ourselves – cocooned in a loneliness we created while reaching out to the world but staying away from the persons near who would not mind our interaction as we would not mind theirs. But we suffer the cold solitude and bear its harsh consequences as if family, friendship, fellowship, comradeship, kinship, neighbourhood and similar words have left the lexicon of contemporary world.

Vast advances in communication technology and practice have radically narrowed space and distance, as well as speed of message delivery in modern world. The notion of the world becoming a global village has not only manifested, it is even getting outdated as new gadgets and communication techniques have actually brought everybody in one room not village square.

At the touch of a button or swipe on a smart phone screen, a person and another would be together; chatting, laughing, quarreling or just making friends in real time without any hindrance. The same development have also made it possible that scores of persons will be in a small room and nobody would be talking with anybody. People would find themselves with others, yet no interaction. Parents and guardians complain of children and wards with who they barely communicate. Couples moan of partners who are more engrossed in their gadgets than in discussing salient issues affecting their relationship. Workplace comradeship is rapidly being replaced by colleagues who are always ‘relating with themselves’ or in the habit of cuddling their gadgets and getting glued to online communication, killing the age-long workers’ bonding and camaraderie that forever unite people who spent decades of their prime in one office or firm.

It appears that the immense gains humanity make from the vast improvement in inter-personal relationship through such ingenuous modern communication inventions as mobile telephone, Internet and the entire new media that have crushed the myth of distance and time as hindrances to human contacts is being eroded by the growing extent of loss of the dignity of human person. Human beings are rapidly sacrificing such purposes of individual life in society, such as interaction with friends, family and community to largely introvertive, if not anti-social, behaviours which the new media easily enables.

More worrisome are the suck-in tendencies of the new communication regimes, especially, the social media. The more people operate in the social media, the  more they get addicted or lose their identities as human persons. The gains of popularity attached to regular activity in the Internet, like the ‘web’ it is called, literally, enwraps some operators in a tangled web. Eventually, their identity as human entities become subsumed links as they come across as brands, slots, ‘likes’, ‘tweets’, ‘followers,’ among others. The anonymity magnifies as the individual strives to live up to the norms of the virtual trend instead of trying to be a more rounded human being who is contributing actively in his family, community and larger society. Hence, humanity gradually begins to lose as the ‘real’ personality in some human persons begin to carrion to the virtual personality they ignorantly crave to be.

In frantic bid to hit limelight fast in the huge space, some mostly young people opt to live in falsehood, like the Enugu-based ‘social media influencer,’ Blessing, who reportedly posed in front of another  man’s house, claiming that she had just built it to mark her 30th birthday and spite her ex-husband. Even when the China-based owner of the house learnt of her impersonation in Instagram, she continued her stream of lies until she was nabbed.

Some turn quarrelsome and social irritants just to be relevant in social media. No wonder, therefore that a new destabilising phenomenon that has emerged in the media industry is an awkward genre dubbed ‘fake news’ which people like the President of the United States of America (USA), Donald Trump and several state governments use to taint the industry. Such odious taints dog the sector but stopping it is an adous task because the lures of the new media encourages ones with untrained minds to get desperate.

A very knotty part of the development is that not many, including specialists and operators in the media industry, as well as those involved in the new rave and millions of none-media sector persons spot a problem in it. Apart from that, the dynamism in the industry and pace of advancement in the communication technology is so rapid, multi-faceted and competitive that caution is farther being thrown into the wind by any new invention. But crying ‘danger!’ will compound the problem instead of solving it.

However, Pope Francis’ approach to the huge challenge with no clear solution raises hope. On Sunday, June 2, the universal head of the Catholic Church will address operators in the communication sector in the 2019 edition of World Communication Day. This year’s, the 53rd edition will be held under the theme: ‘“We are members of one another” (Eph 4:25). From Community to Communities’ in Vatican and all diocese of the church around the world.

The Pontiff  uses the thrust to re-emphasise his earlier view that contemporary communication advancement is a wealth and “gift of God” that can be turned into “a place of alienation” when engaged in with obsession.

According to the Vatican publication ANS, Rome, this year’s theme “underlines the importance of giving back to communication a broad perspective, based on the person, and sets the accent on the value of interaction always intended as dialogue and as an opportunity to meet with others”. The emphasis is on the need to make communities places of meeting, proximity and closeness, concepts that can be dispersed in the digital world, if not properly cared for and not used properly.

“At the same time, the message requires “a reflection on the current state and nature of Internet relations to start from the idea of community as a network among people in their entirety”.

“Some of the prevailing trends in the so-called social web place us in front of a fundamental question: to what extent can we speak of a real community in the face of the logics that characterize some communities in social networks?”.

When the theme was unveiled on October 1, 2018, the Pope’s publicists served these poignant bullet points from the Holy Father’s thoughts: “We ask together that social networks do not cancel one’s personality, but foster solidarity and respect”;     “Let us take advantage of the opportunities for meeting and solidarity offered by social networks”; “Social networks are capable of promoting relations and the well-being of society”; and “The digital world is a meeting place, where you can caress or hurt, where you can have a fruitful debate or arrive at defamation.”

I share the Pontiff’s hope and quest for a positive rejuvenation of our engagement in social media communication though that alone would not suffice as a prelude to a more enduring solution. Things are spiraling terribly out of control in social media. Despite the highly gifted society and industry leaders of this generation, we still appear helpless. This cannot be true. If even as early as medieval times humanity was able to think deeply and establish checks and balances on matters of such seductive power as states and institutions printing more paper to have more money, why won’t wise men and women of 21st Century invent ideas to control the current madness in social communication before we all go mad? Globally identifiable codes in gadgets and cognitive crypts in messages can be additional checks. But there is need for more.

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