I'm going to put a quick disclaimer on this one. If you have a social networking site I do not think any less of you. The words I may use in this post may be very loaded but that is because of my strong feelings towards this subject.
I've been going over in my head how to compose this article for a long period of time. I've discussed this particular topic with many people over the years, including priests, seminarians, lay men and women and adolescents. I don't believe that there is enough criticism and attention being brough on this topic. This is something that engulfs Atheists to Christians, Americans to Europeans, and Priests to the Laity. It's called Social Networking Sites.
Social Networking sites such as Myspace or Facebook allow users to post pictures, videos, and personal information on a web page for the internet to see (Recently they allow users to make their profile private so that only their "friends" can view their page). According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "more than half (55%) of all online American youths ages 12-17 use online social networking sites, according to a new national survey of teenagers."
As a young man entering high school, it was socially unacceptable to not operate and maintain such a site. I found myself uploading pictures from my hobbies and athletic events and blogging about my drama filled days of high school. Slander, gossip, accusations and immorality soon began being displayed on these websites. I remember attending a youth group and hearing from a few young women how they had posted pictures of themselves engaging in underage drinking on their Myspace. After an experience during my sophomore year in which through a bullentin over myspace I was declared dead, I ceased to maintain and operate a personal social networking site (I did however become part of a garage rock band and we had and maintained a Myspace. However after my application to the Diocese to become a seminarian, I removed the site.)
My issues with these websites is the blatant personal information and experiences on the website. These websites, through their users, promote underage drinking, drugs and sex.
Many people declare or give the defense that they use it to keep in touch with their friends. What happened to writing letters? What happened to taking the time out to hand write someone a letter rather than leaving a shallow picture comment on their Facebook or Myspace? What happened to learning about someone through dialogue and experience rather than reading all about them on a web page? Slowly we are desensitizing ourselves to one another.
As a young man in college, even in a seminary, I find myself near alone in not having such a website. I am well aware that many priests, seminarians and members of the church use and operate such websites and I hope that they realize what they are associating themselves with.
How easy is it to link to someone's page and see the immoral behavior of one of their "friends" on such a website?
When posting on the internet, more specifically this blog, I ask myself how would this look to the people who are praying for me and my vocation back home. What would they think if they saw some of my "friends" on my site behaving in an immoral way? The next time you sign into your Myspace or Facebook think about that.