Fratelli Tutti is a document that Pope Francis has been thinking of writing since before this pandemic, and the pandemic has only reinforced his arguments.
Our Pope was concerned to see, as he had said on other occasions, that in our society not only those who are in pieces not only that there are “pieces” of war in one country or another, but since we are all connected in the world, we are experiencing a “world war in pieces” (ref. 259). For this reason, he reflected that “in the face of the diverse and current ways of eliminating or ignoring others, we are able to react with a new dream of fraternity and social friendship that does not remain in words. Although I wrote based on my Christian convictions, who encouraged and fed me, I tried to do it in such a way that this reflection is open to dialog with all people of good will” (6). In this way it is wonderful to see how, in complete freedom, and without fear of losing his faith, he is able to show the fruits of his friendship with the Orthodox Patriarch Bartolomeu, who inspired him to write Laudato Sì, and with the Great Imam Ahmad Al -Tayyeb, who inspired him to write the present Fratelli Tutti (ref. 5).
Throughout the document I find beautiful and profound teachings. But what impressed me most was the section entitled “Information without Wisdom”. I liked it so much that I put it in my status as a social messaging network, something I don’t normally do. To talk about this, I would like to tell you first something that I have been thinking about since last year. I came to hear the preaching of a well-known Dominican in Latin America, his name is Bro Nelson Medina, he spoke about some bubbles that are created on social networks, and I learned other things, through other means, about how social networks, how they work commercially and technologically, including my favorite, which is dedicated to videos. Then, over time and through my current master’s in financial technology, I have been able to learn more about all of this.
You have to notice, whenever you “like” or “dislike” a content, or participate of a survey, accept or block a friend, make a comment and even the time you spend on certain content compared to another, since it’s something that amuses you, it is not perceived that it means valuable information. I am not here saying that it’s bad to collect this information, if you are given permission (although to tell the truth, I would prefer that you did not). It is inevitable, if the service wasn’t free. Well, as the marketing phrase says, “if the product is free, you are the product”. This means that the social network will process this information in such a way that its real clients, the companies that pay for publicity, can reach the most appropriate people whom they want to convey a message. Now, if the social network needs you to spend as much time as possible on the app or platform, it will remove all obstacles so that you don’t feel uncomfortable with it.
This is how information about your tastes allows the social network to recommend content that you like, depending on the algorithm that deciphered how you are and your preferences (yes, a robot “interpreting” you, and you, always understand each other ?); on the other side, avoid recommendations of content from one group of people to another group of people, if you can forecast hostile comments and account closings between them. No one likes to be in a place where he is not wanted, or where, when doing a comment, he must be explaining himself. This is how certain bubbles are created among people who share the same opinion (in fact, when it comes to Internet searches with your favorite search website, there is the term “bubble filter”, which means that you will only receive results that the algorithm considers important to you, someone in another part of the world receives other results; I checked this a few days ago).
Being surrounded only by those who think like me, and receiving similar content according to previous experiences, not only seems boring, but also dangerous, and against a genuine search for the truth (there is something called “confirmation skew” that is only interesting information that confirms your beliefs).
In this context, you can already imagine why I love reading Fratelli Tutti‘s numbers 47 to 50. The Pope tells us that “true wisdom involves a meeting with reality”. But these days everything can be produced, disguised, altered. This makes the direct encounter with the limits of reality intolerable, people or situations that hurt our sensitivity or that cause us dislike are simply eliminated in the virtual networks those days, building a virtual circle that isolates us from the environment that we live. This last thought reminded me that I recently learned what it means to “cancel culture”, which is when someone makes a small mistake (often a misinterpretation) and it goes viral to make comments against that poor person. If this person is guilty or not, it is not up to us to judge, and participate of the virilization seems to me to be a sin, as it goes against their dignity. As you can see, this is linked to the general reason of the Encyclical: the “various and current ways of eliminating or ignoring others”.
The Pope then talks about the importance of true dialog, which allows us to arrive at a common wisdom, and which prevent us, because we are going so fast that we do not listen to the other person, “and when he is in the middle of his dialog, we already interrupt him and we want to answer him when he is not finished speaking”. He also comments that “the overwhelming amount of information that floods us does not mean more wisdom, the conversations finally only revolve around the latest data and do not penetrate the heart of life”. Anything of this is chitchat for Pope Francis, as if it were just some of the unimportant things that young people do.
Do you remember that the reflections of his encyclical are to avoid a conflicting society that leads to war? Well , see how this paragraph ends: “the problem is that a path of fraternity, local and universal, can only be followed by free spirits who are willing to have real meetings”. That is why it is important that we take care of the way we behave on social media.
May the Lord, the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph bless you.
Cristóbal Miguel Gómez-Gutiérrez
(Panama – Costa Rica)
Translation: Vinícius Monteiro