"The key quote, which clearly seems to refer to Facebook friending (or at least to so-called 'friend harvesters'): "If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction."
Here's the full paragraph: "The concept of friendship has enjoyed a renewed prominence in the vocabulary of the new digital social networks that have emerged in the last few years. The concept is one of the noblest achievements of human culture. ... We should be careful, therefore, never to trivialise the concept or the experience of friendship. It would be sad if our desire to sustain and develop on-line friendships were to be at the cost of our availability to engage with our families, our neighbours and those we meet in the daily reality of our places of work, education and recreation. If the desire for virtual connectedness becomes obsessive, it may in fact function to isolate individuals from real social interaction while also disrupting the patterns of rest, silence and reflection that are necessary for healthy human development."
Perhaps the Pope has been reading too many articles about the sad but rather silly story of the man who killed his wife for changing her status on Facebook to single.
As anyone who's ever used Facebook much probably knows, FB operates on the "closed universe" assumption that anyone who deletes any preference actually intends to mean the opposite. So various friends of mine have found that if X decides not to keep displaying the fact that she is married to Y (for example), FB sends a note to all your friends (or "friends") saying "X ended her relationship with Y". This tends to create a flurry of emails asking whatever happened, so at least it's a way of connecting with old friends :-)
If that is what happened in this case though, it really would be beyond silly into near tragic.
Connectedly, Pangloss is saying something or other about virtual worlds, social networking and privacy at the rather interesting looking Digital Lives conference run by the British Library in London on Feb 9-11. She may or may not mention the Pope...
While I'm at it, Pangloss (rescheduled from last year when I was ill) is also talking on social networking sites and the law at PLC (Practical law Company) in London on February 24. Details at www.practicallaw.com but I understand it's already full, although there is a waiting list. End advert!