Paxtonvic’s Blog

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Online Friendship – good or bad in parts?

The new RC Archbishop of Westminster, the head of the RC church in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols has issued strong words of warning about the superficial  nature of online friendships and suggests that sometimes they can be detrimental to psychological health.

Im interested in that question and what others’ opinions may be. Children of my era didnt have computers of course and our main contacts were at school and after school clubs -if we went to any like Guides ( if you were a girl!) or cricket ( again – I did that!) . I used to spend hours in my early teens playing ball  games out in a park with mates or walking round town on week-ends or cycling out to villages. My other passion at home was playing a very old tape recorder and recording Radio Programmes like ” The Navy Lark” and other comedy programmes.. such innocence!

Years ago when I first got internet connected – maybe 10 years ago… I joined a folk music type web-site and made some good friends throught that – but well remember when I didnt get a reply to a message I would feel rather bereft that my thoughtd had gone unheard. So, I can imagine now that young people might get very hurt if comments are made about them online in media like Facebook. I  remember a time when my daughter when younger used to get ” got at” by people on her web-site.

So, maybe the Archbishop has got a point – but  maybe online friendships can be okay if they are balanced by real ones which involve the totality of human contact – voice and body language. But online friendships do mean that a lot of people who might not be mobile, who find meeting people  difficult or who live a long way from friends can keep in touch.  And there can be a freedom when communicating online ( say by MSN messeneger) in talking to someone else  without the distractions or inhibitions of one to one contact.  Moderation in all things! I hope people don’t read the Archbishops warnings and think its the church being counter-cultural… even the Church of England web-site is twittering and many of our bishops have blogs now.

Ive just turned 3,000 views on Paxtonvic since mid- May – so mega thanks to everyone who supports the blog and I hope that everyone who logs on finds something of interest to amuse, educate and stimulate thinking.

Here is one online write up of the Archbishop’s views:

Archbishop slams online friendships

Sunday, August 2 04:09 am

Press Assoc.

  • Social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace encourage teenagers to build “transient relationships” that can leave them traumatised and even suicidal when they collapse, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has warned. 

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols also expressed concern about the rise of individualism in society.

He described footballers who break their contracts to move to other clubs for bigger salaries as “mercenaries” and said moves to loosen laws on assisted suicide were particularly worrying.

His comments in The Sunday Telegraph follow the inquest into the death of 15-year-old Megan Gillan, a student at Macclesfield High School in Cheshire who took a fatal overdose of painkillers after being bullied on social networking site Bebo.

Archbishop Nichols said the sites encouraged young people to put too much emphasis on the number of friends they have rather than on the quality of their relationships.

“Among young people often a key factor in them committing suicide is the trauma of transient relationships,” he said. “They throw themselves into a friendship or network of friendships, then it collapses and they’re desolate.”

He continued: “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 said the internet and mobile phones were “dehumanising” community life and that relationships had been weakened by the decline in face-to-face meetings.

“I think there’s a worry that an excessive use or an almost exclusive use of text and emails means that as a society we’re losing some of the ability to build interpersonal communication that’s 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. Too much exclusive use of electronic information dehumanises what is a very, very important part of community life and living together.”

August 7, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Since I’ve just come back from meeting an online friend in real life and had a brilliant time, was given lots of free books and now she’s coming to stay next month I’d have to say ‘good’, though perhaps age has made me temper my expectations in general.

    Comment by Allrevedup | August 7, 2009 | Reply

    • Yo Allrevedup – good to see you back and that you had a great time away – did you miss my blog?????

      Comment by paxtonvic | August 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. I’m sure the learned Archbishop is making a very valid and prayed over point. It it though, his point of view and he includes nothing in the article to indicate that a society that communicates in a state of the art method, is any less God fearing, or out of touch with the message of the Gospel. (this site itself would seem to be testament to that fact)
    I’ve learned over the course of this week that our Roman brothers spurn the use of computers and the associated methods of communication by that medium.
    I’m a firm believer that I would rather have experience of a situation, before I pass comment.
    I’ts probably not supprising then, that a group of abstenant batchelors is vested with the mission to instruct a worldwide Church on how to have human sexual intercourse.
    Anglicanism may be viewed (particularly at the moment) as the squabbling, class ridden cousins you know exist, but prefer to have no more contact with than to send a Christmas card.That aside, I would still rather be the out of control cousin with suspected autism, than a member of a family who appear well presented on the surface but who have very serious problems behind the closed door of Home.

    Comment by Wingy | August 8, 2009 | Reply

    • As usual, a thoughtful view point, Wingy. As with any communication media, it can be used wisely and folishly and there was always the danger of misuse of the internet as soon as it was born. But it can be a great source of good and creativity and an excellent way for people to make new friendship which so become real.

      I wonder how Jesus would have used the internet if it had been around 2,000 years ago….

      Comment by paxtonvic | August 8, 2009 | Reply

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