Saturday, October 15, 2016

Is there an authority in facebook?

     A long time ago the faith was transmitted vertically, ex cathedra, so to speak. There was the magisterium, the bishops, priests and at the end of the line, the laity. Among the laity there was papa, mama, maybe the lolo and the lola. They assured the transmission. Perhaps in schools there were the catechists who took charge of transmitting the doctrines of faith to children.
     It is quite different today. We have the computer screen. We have google and the facebook and twitter. Each of us can self-inform by searching, by “surfing” on one’s own. We can be quite Cartesian here: Let me take care of my own cognitive capacities in discovering the faith. My access to information about the faith is horizontal. There are a lot of websites to open and I can consider them equally valuable for my own spiritual growth. The horizontal, however, may need the vertical too.
     The vertical is that which tells us if our search is “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”. But in a digital world who is going to tell us that? Is there a digital, cyber authority who will tell us to limit our search within the “”? I am grateful for the formation I had in college and in a bit of what came after that. I had “solid” teachers and I read “solid” books. Entering the cyber world I somehow feel I am “guided”. In fact there are important moments when I still return to the reading of nice smelling books, even if the papers have turned brown.
     The facebook is one area of concern, if at least for me. It is so horizontal. Each one puts in his or her content and that content is imbedded in a knot filled with “likes” and “comments”. Well, not all contents are lucky to be reviewed by “friends”. Some disappear swiftly down the screen without a trace of a “like”. But a half hour scroll of the facebook world reveals how all sorts of contents are available. Opinions vary, and the political ones tend to dominate.
     Now, is there a “vertical authority” who can tell us when we are “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad” with the contents we share? Is each one obliged to evaluate, in his or her own way, and decide which is “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad”?
     There is the “influencing” of the facebook. Some people post hundreds in an hour and I am not sure how they do it. Do they spend all day with the facebook? I was reading about ancient skepticism the other day and I learned that some sceptics held the strategy of talking too much enough to silence others. Overwhelm your interlocutor with all your talk.
     And I ask myself if those who put in hundreds of posts in half an hour follow this sceptical strategy. It will be rude to say they do. But they can formulate a kind of “vertical authority”. The many other posts disappear, they are neglected, they are swept away in the flow of posts as they are dominated upon by the “hundreds-of-posts” of singular individuals. These individuals get their “voices heard” all the more. They can then give the impression of “authority”.       

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