Society has turned into ‘ungovernable protest movements’ as a result of social media, the Church of Ireland leader has warned.
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Reverend John McDowell, has blamed Twitter and Facebook for “atomising” public debate.
Far from its stated goals of connecting people, social media has become users ‘performing for like-minded people’ and churches should not sit idly by but rather step in to shape discussions of national importance. , he suggested.
Speaking before the church’s governing body, the General Synod, the archbishop said that even democratic governments respond to social media by “deepening” rather than “healing” the divisions they create.
It is, he said at the General Synod meeting in the Assembly Buildings in Belfast, “the main contributing factor to this atomization of public space.
“Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that social media is largely to blame after the turn it took when it became less tied to people connecting with other people, and more to people who play for like-minded people,” he said.
Social media is “dissolving social capital” and “chronically distrustful of institutions and, to use the jargon, unwilling to meta-narrative”, he said in remarks reported by the Belfast Newsletter on Thursday.
“The effect has been, as one commentator put it, to turn nations into ungovernable protest movements.
“This in turn has led governments, even in some democratic countries, to choose to manage these divisions by deepening them rather than healing them.”
Bishop McDowell said “it is important, in fact professionally, for a number of reasons, that civil society, including the churches, contribute to the public debate on these issues.”
In his presidential address, the Church leader also urged Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, to help bring the war in Ukraine to a “just end”.