Twitter newcomer Pope Benedict XVI complained on Thursday that popular social media users and smooth talkers were creating a din and stealing attention from those trying to address key social and faith issues.
"The culture of social networks... pose demanding challenges to those who want to speak about truth and values," Benedict said in a speech to mark World Social Media day, in which he complained of the "din of excessive information" online.
The 85-year-old pontiff, who sent his first tweet in eight languages in December, said that "the significance and effectiveness" of social media messages "appear determined more by their popularity than by their intrinsic importance and value."
"Popularity is often linked to celebrity or to strategies of persuasion rather than to the logic of argumentation," said Benedict, who already has over two and a half million followers on Twitter, but has had to face a stream of mockery in response to his pious posts since launching on the social network.
"At times the gentle voice of reason can be overwhelmed by the din of excessive information and it fails to attract attention which is given instead to those who express themselves in a more persuasive manner," he added.
The leader of the world's 1.1 billion Catholics said social media was to be embraced for the opportunities offered "for prayer, meditation and sharing the word of God", but said that the challenge facing the networks was "how to be truly inclusive."
Social networks "when engaged in a wise and balanced way, help to foster forms of dialogue and debate which, if conducted respectfully and with concern for... truthfulness, can reinforce the bonds of unity between individuals," he said.
Users may be out to make new friends and "be entertained" but they "must make an effort to be authentic," he added.
"In the digital environment... where it is easy for heated and divisive voices to be raised and where sensationalism can at times prevail, we are called to attentive discernment," he said.