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Bishop orders: “Thou shall not tweet”

From time to time my father sends me quick scans of interesting newspaper columns and/or stories in case I miss them myself. Today he sent me something I just had to share with you. It’s an article from Saturday’s Ottawa Citizen entitled “Thou shall not tweet” about a Scottish Bishop ferociously opposed to digital communication channels. I have pasted it below along with some of my own comments.

twitter article

Ok, so first and foremost, in defense of the Catholic Church, I should point out that this is an isolated incident of a particular Scottish Bishop (albeit highly prominent). That being said, comments from senior officials like this definitely don’t help the Church’s overall goal to be more “in-tune” with the times.

So what’s wrong with the Bishop’s comments?

Nothing at all. Everything the Bishop is saying here makes sense, including my favourite line:

“We should avoid an obsessive need for virtual connectedness and develop primary human relationships, pursuing true friendship with real people.”

Here’s what he completely missed the boat on: THESE ARE ALREADY REAL PEOPLE BEHIND THE TOOLS!

The “obsessive need” he is referring to is not for “virtual” connectedness, it’s for connectedness with other humans! The same need that has existed since the first human set foot on this planet. What’s new here is that these channels drastically amplify the spectrum of potential human connections that individuals can now make.

Last I checked, my Facebook friends were pretty real, in fact I spent Saturday enjoying some quality time drinking beers at a friends bar (for my buddy’s birthday) and then ripping up the dance floor at a club across the street.  How did I find out about the birthday get-together? Facebook. How did my other friend organize a scattered group of “late-twenty somethings” to come to his bar in a few short hours? Facebook. I don’t “hang-out” on Facebook, I use it to augment and strengthen my “physical world” friendships. Let’s shift to Twitter for a second. In the last 6 months, I have invited at least twenty “virtual business connections” out for a coffee or a quick lunch. These are people that I would have never met without social media channels that managed to bring us together. A few of these I now meet in-person on a regular basis but sometimes staying in touch on Twitter is absolutely sufficient. Much better than the alternative; not connecting at all. I simply don’t have enough time in each day for in-person meetings with the hundreds of people I consider myself to be good friends with.

Here’s my point. Nobody ever said these channels are supposed to outright replace face-to-face human contact, which is what the Bishop is implying. If that were the case, then I would wholeheartedly agree with him. Someone needs to give the Bishop a nice presentation describing all the incredible human collaboration occurring right now on a global scale thanks to these channels. Not just in the developed world, but in developing countries as well.

Next time let’s hope the Bishop does his research. I suggest a few good books as a starting point (in case the Internet is evil):

* Wikinomics – Don Tapscott
* Grown Up Digital – Don Tapscott
* Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky
* Groundswell – Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff
* Tribes – Seth Godin
* Naked Conversations – Shel Israel & Robert Scoble
* The Long Tail – Chris Anderson
* The Wisdom of Crowds – James Surowieki
* Join the Conversation – Joseph Jaffe
* Cluetrain Manifesto – Rick Levine, Chris Locke, Doc Searles, Dave Weinberger

And of course, no intro research would be complete without some videos by my favourite cultural anthropology professor Michael Wesch.

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