Both the first week and the third week of the exercises focus us on the reality of disorder in the world – in our own lives (in the first week) and the disorder and violence that leads to Christ Passion and death in the third week. The horrific flood of headlines at the moment about so much violence in the world, fuelled by land and religion. The suffering of the most vulnerable, the poor, women and children, remind us that to be in denial about sin in the world is irresponsible. What has changed though is the advent of social media – that as more and more of us live our lives on-line, we are leaving a record of our actions and experiences for good or ill. Andrew Keen , in his excellent book ‘Digital Vertigo’, claims that we are now living in an age of exhibitionism – and it seems that what we are exhibiting is not always good and noble.
The last couple of years I have been giving talks to students and teachers about the importance of cleaning up their ‘digital footprint’. A chaplain I worked with once, was very good at being a benign presence on social media. He would often log on – on a Sat morning and gently suggest that drunken photos might want to be deleted. I often remind students that when they apply for a job, their CV’s are less important to their employers than their facebook profile. I have heard countless stories of how prospective employers have binned piles of CV’s without even looking at them after exploring the candidates Digital Footprint.
Recently what has been shocking has been the use of ISIS of social media as a way of spreading fear. Videos and pictures posted on the internet – of grisly beheadings, summary executions are shockingly mainstream. It maybe one of the reasons that the Iraqi army crumbled so quickly whilst the ISIS forces advanced so rapidly. When these shocking videos started appearing on the internet during the Chechen War, it was pretty difficult to stumble upon them, now they appear on twitter feeds and facebook updates without warning. They should be taken down as soon as they can. And when these ‘tourist’ jihadists return home the evidence they have indicted themselves with should be used to convict them of war crimes. Interestingly this article argues that images on a Russian Soldiers Instagram account seem to offer evidence that could point towards Russian involvement of the Malayasian Airline tragedy.
It has long been a concern of mine the amount of anger on the internet and the corrosive effect of trolling. I am particularly concerned with the effect of trolling on the young people I work with. A major concern for young people is to create an online identity, which makes them particularly vulnerable to trolling – as ridicule, jealousy and betrayal create wounds that are not easy to heal. The unique environment of the internet creates ‘collapsed contexts’ i.e. the audience is unlimited, and potentially world wide, unlike the normal fixed context of a face to face conversation with a friend or a group of friends. One aspect of the unlimited context is that when someone is bullied on line or humiliated they start imagining that all of their friends and family have witnessed this (whereas usually a handful of people might have read the comments) . This then leads to a toxic spiral downwards and self harming or the occasional tragic suicides, that seem to be linked to sites such as ask.fm.
We are building a community on-line and it us up to us what type of community we are building. Certain people have a lot more power and influence than others – Zuckerberg (Facebook), Schmidt (Google) etc. With that power comes responsibility and their is little evidence of them taking this seriously. Have you noticed how on certain sites, You Tube, Facebook you just expect to see angry and nasty comments whereas on other sites e.g, Flickr – the tone of the comments is much more positive? I think a link can be made here to the famous ‘broken window’ theory in criminology. This explanation comes from the original 1982 article in Atlantic Monthly – Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.
The point is that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behaviour will be deterred if you fix the windows and clean the litter, and that major crime will be prevented as a result. On Facebook and You Tube therefore there are many broken windows, which means that trolls feel very happy to go in and send offensive messages. However on Flickr and other places informal social controls can be an effective strategy to reduce unruly behaviour. Effective moderating and community watchmen can change the feel of a website and its comment threads. Perhaps more political pressure needs to be put on Google (who own YouTube) and Facebook to start taking responsibility.
A piece of news that might have passed you buy a couple of weeks ago is that the Vatican has secured control of the .catholic domain name. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which coordinates the assignment of Internet domain names and addresses around the world, is rolling out a new generation of new domain names such as .party and .xbox, among others. See the video below to see what TLGD’s (Top Level Generic Domains ) were available
I was hoping that I could be rebrand this blog – but I found out that the Vatican does not plan to allow individual bloggers or private Catholics to use “.catholic,”. The domain will be limited to those with a formal canonical recognition: dioceses, parishes and other territorial church jurisdictions; religious orders and other canonically recognized communities; and Catholic institutions such as universities, schools and hospitals. Paul Tighe who is the priest in charge of the Pontifical Council for Social Communication says that .catholic will promote “a more cohesive and organized presence” of the church online, “so the recognized structure of the church can be mirrored in the digital space,”.
The politics behind ‘naming the internet is fascinating. Saudi Arabia has entered an objection to the Vatican’s bid for a new “.catholic” internet domain. In an appeal to ICANN, Saudi officials argued that the Vatican “cannot demonstrate that it possesses a monopoly over the term ‘Catholic.’” The information-technology commission of the Islamic kingdom claimed that other Christian groups, including the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, also use the term “Catholic.” It wasn’t a specific attack on the Catholic church as the Saudi commission sent ICANN over 150 objections to proposed internet domain names, for a variety of reasons. It objected to any group being put in charge of web addresses based on religious terms. It complained about bids to create top-level domains for .islam, .halal and .ummah on similar grounds.They also made moral complaints about an array of planned new suffixes. It objected to .gay because it “will be offensive” to societies where homosexuality is “contrary to their culture, morality or religion”, to .tattoo as tattooing is prohibited in Islam and Judaism and to .bar on grounds that because of its association with alcohol the term.