· The need to speak about ourselves on the internet is not only a symptom of narcissism ·
Man needs eternity and every other hope is too brief, too limited, the Pope said this to the heads of State and Government, who participated in the G20 Summit in Cannes, seeming to give voice to the millions of youth (and those not so young) who have found, via internet communication, an altar by which, through other means and other words, they give concrete expression to their hope of eternity through constantly publishing updates about their lives.
A real and true act of faith that creates the illusion of “eternal life” is in fact implicit through the plentiful use of instruments as Facebook, Twitter and personal blogs to “eternalize ourselves”. The “I”, constantly updated through the ephemeral and ethereal means of the web, wandering in the virtual world, seems to be the perfect image of the soul that many, who have fallen prey to a homogenizing, secular conformism, disregard if not ridicule as the product of pure and outdated supersitition.
These modern souls which curse themselves for a glimpse of public space in the constant search for attention and visibility. They believe to simply be following the spirit of the times declining with narcissism and self-reference.
Yet in this unasked self-display of biography and personal information, we cannot lose sight of an interior uneasiness in the face of a society that has muted any personal search for truth beyond the earth and ultimately the search for union with God. These photos, posts, and very personal videos are none other than forced choices in order to transcend space and time and eternalize one's own memory of others, because the cultural context in which they have grown up has neglected any appetite for eternity and the horizon of the infinite and for spiritual searching. This community of the virtual faithful search for this horizon there, where instead they think they are denying it, believing and feeling that they are in step with the times, times that this quest for the infinite has apparently repudiated.
We are not reading different intentions in the explicit words of the Pope and the stuttering of symbolic statements (likes, uploads, shared photos) on the part of million of social network users in the world. They are all in the frantic search of instant recognition that their lives, so apparently tiny, so superficially insignificant, can count on a community complicity capable of making their existence less ephemeral.
The users translate their desire for the absolute with the means that modernity gives to them. If we once withdrew to isolated communities in inaccessible monasteries to escape the world and dedicate ourselves to the intimate union with the Divine, the highest aspiration for spiritual eternity, today millions travel in the same direction this time with instruments and through different channels, with other purposes.
In the “what are you thinking?” through the “status updates”, “photo updates”, “video updates” in the countless options to constantly register and post your mood, sharing your view point, thoughts, “philosophizing” daily, it is impossible to not recognize the physiological need to find in another a witness, reason or ultimate legitimacy to one's existence, a justification that goes beyond mere and precarious presence of the individual, a path that no longer searches for the ephemeral or virtual, but eternal.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 20, 2020
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