October 29 of next year will be the golden anniversary of the transmission of the first digital message, which was sent between two of the U.S. Defense Ministry’s ARPAnet computers in 1969. This was the birth of the Internet, and the groundbreaking test run was both happy and foreboding. Charley Kline was trying to send the simple prompt “LOGIN” from UCLA to Bill Duvall at Stanford Research Institute about 350 miles away. Only the first two letters were sent before the system crashed, however, making the very first digital message one that was lost in transmission. Nevertheless, the full message was successfully relayed an hour later after a reboot, and the rest is history.
Last year, the French bishops’ conference came up with a document
entitled “Eglise en réseaux—Quelle communion à l’ère du numérique?” In this pastoral text, they described “digital networks” as a “huge challenge” and “double-sided issue” while asking, “What kind of communion is possible in the digital age?” This article as such aims to explore the challenges to and opportunities in the way people relate to one another other as posed by the Internet and social media as well as how these rapidly evolving technologies can be a bridge or barrier for a culture of communion.