Pope Francis Urges Young People to Flee ‘Digital Narcissism’

TOPSHOT - Pope Francis (R) arrives to lead his weekly general audience at Paul VI hall on December 21, 2016 at the Vatican as people take pictures of him with their cell-phone. / AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty

ROME — Pope Francis has warned young people of a “widespread growing digital narcissism that affects young people and adults alike” in his message for World Youth Day 2020.

“Today, we are often ‘connected’ but not communicating,” the pope lamented. “The indiscriminate use of electronic devices can keep us constantly glued to the screen.”

Calling for a “cultural change,” Francis urged young people to resist the tendency toward isolation and withdrawal into “virtual worlds.”

Jesus “calls us to embrace a reality that is so much more than virtual,” the pontiff insisted. “This does not involve rejecting technology, but rather using it as a means and not as an end.”

By lifting their eyes from screens and risking to change the world, young people will be able “to contemplate the heavens, the stars and the world around you,” the pope said. “If this is our message, many young people will stop looking bored and weary, and let their faces come alive and be more beautiful than any virtual reality.”

In his message for World Youth Day, which will be celebrated on Palm Sunday (April 5), the pope called young people to self-examination and a greater detachment from the world of electronic communications.

“What about my own ability to see? When I look at things, do I look carefully, or is it more like when I quickly scroll through the thousands of photos or social profiles on my cell phone?” Francis asked.

“How often do we end up being eyewitnesses of events without ever experiencing them in real time! Sometimes our first reaction is to take a picture with our cell phone, without even bothering to look into the eyes of the persons involved,” he continued.

All of this leads to a “digital narcissism,” he said, adding that “all too many people are living this way!”

“In the long run, this will inevitably lead to unhappiness, apathy and boredom with life, a growing sense of emptiness and frustration,” the pope warned, while encouraging young people to get out and become engaged with other people, especially those most in need.

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