Don’t lose art of talking, says Bishop of Doncaster

Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
Bishop of Doncaster, Peter Burrows.
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A couple of years ago I was dragged screaming and shouting into the ‘twitter sphere’ and as of this week I have reached the dizzy heights of 684 followers, writes the Bishop Of Doncaster, Rt Rev Peter Burrows.

I’m pleasantly surprised to see the diverse individuals who follow me on Twitter and am delighted they do so. I suspect some follow me, as I do them, out of curiosity, shared interest, communication and knowledge. Whether on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, other social media, magazines and TV shows, many of us follow the lives and interests of others especially celebrities - of which I’m definitely not one!

In reality following people on Twitter or other social media is unlikely to make much impact on the lives of most of us. But I’m appalled how this technology is sometimes used to distort the truth or bully and abuse other people.

Many of us followed the news about Andy Coulson and the phone hacking trial. And I was deeply moved this week by the TV programme ‘Murdered by my Boyfriend’ in which mobile phone and internet technology was used to control, bully and abuse a victim of domestic violence and a contributory factor leading to her horrific death.

It’s estimated one in four UK women will experience domestic violence with victims most likely aged 16 to 24. On average, two women in Britain die each week as a result of domestic violence.

The abuse and murder of another person is repugnant and sinful and is sadly going on in our streets and behind closed doors in all areas of our country, including here in Doncaster. We must take this appalling crime seriously and not turn a blind eye when we witness it happening. We need to work together to stamp out this abusive and violent crime and I applaud groups, organisations and people who work with those most at risk.

Thankfully most of us won’t be victims, and instead enjoy the benefits and advantages of social media for networking and connecting with others. But call me old fashioned, I think many people are losing the art of conversation. I think there’s something important about social interaction and engaging with someone that requires us to have a face-to-face conversation. Talking to someone directly says something about their unique worth and value. It tells them they’re so important we actually want to speak with them rather than receive a faceless impersonal communication. It demonstrates personal commitment to the other person.

Social media is a great way of communicating and imparting information and knowledge, when used properly and kept in perspective. My fear is we’re losing the art of the personal and intimate communication and in danger of diminishing the quality of our relationships, which impacts on all of us, on our ability to engage with and to recognise the uniqueness of each individual.

n Bishop Peter’s Twitter account is @peterburrows101