While the real tragedy of the recent Rutgers University Webcam Incident is the loss of a young life undoubtedly, the effects will be much more widespread. I spend a good deal of my time talking with technophobes in the church and trying to understand their fears about technology. I do this to help them overcome them. These are good people basically who have real fears about technology. Losing information, other people gaining access to sensitive information, the protection of children from predators, a growing culture often unable to stay focused and a lack of expertise with technology rank amongst the top comments from this group.

I’m headed to Philadelphia next week to talk to a majority of the priests of the Archdiocese there about technology in ministry. I sincerely wonder if these fears are shared by some of the priests who are uncomfortable with technology and expressing themselves and their ministry with it.

I could see someone saying, “I just got a new macbook. It has a webcam. Can someone access that?”

A bunch of people on facebook commented on a recent status update of mine in which I referenced this topic. Universally, the opinion was to not use technology is to ignore an entire generation of people.

Well said, and we’ve already been there with Gen X roundly being ignored.

I think my colleague Susan Franseconi, from St Thomas the Apostle in Naperville, IL said it best:

“I think the real problem, which we all see and have probably experienced via email, texting, blogging, and video is the suspension of real life that these virtual forums create. Comments and actions which would never, ever be done or said face to face or with real time live witnesses take place in the virtual world.

What needs to be communicated is the idea that what is being said or done or shown is something that would not be said, done, or shown in a real life situation, then it has not place on email, text, blog, video. Tech etiquette.

What those students did to their fellow student is horrible and shocking, beyond the breech of the expectation of privacy, they did not consider real life consequences and they will now live with this for the rest of their lives. It is absolutely profoundly heartbreaking that that young man took his life.”

Amen. And we need to model good communication both virtually and in real time. What does it show to the world when staff members can’t get along, or gloss over each other’s faults and insecurities? What about when we just gossip behind someone’s back? All of that is fodder for the same behavior to occur online.

So today, let us pray for people who use technology, that they might be able to use it wisely and justly. Let us pray for the students at Rutgers who struggle with the actions of a few students who did something hateful. And let us pray for all those who find life hopeless and take their own lives. May God hold them all, this day, in the palm of their hands.