Thou shalt not troll: the C of E’s edicts for Christians on social media

by Stratton Craig

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It feels almost as though a week is not allowed to go by without someone saying something inappropriate, rude or abusive online – intentional or not – and making the news for doing so. When personal emotions are running high, it’s all too easy to vent them on Facebook or Twitter without thinking clearly about the consequences first.
For those who use their social media accounts ‘religiously’ and want to avoid slipping up, there are some new guidelines: The Church of England has recently issued a press release with nine new commandments worded for the age of social.
The list isn’t in the traditional style of ‘thou shalt not do this or that’. Instead, it contains more general advice in modern language on simply being courteous, nice and considerate when posting or commenting. By asking the question “Would God like this?” before hitting ‘send’, the CofE suggests you can self-censor your posts to be more in line with the Church’s ideals. The idea is that Christians with an active social media presence can become stronger and more effective ‘ambassadors’ for the Church and their religion online.
The full list is as follows:
1. Don’t rush in
2. Remember updates are transient yet permanent
3. You’re an ambassador for the church
4. Don’t hide behind anonymity
5. Think about the blurring of public/private life boundaries
6. Safeguarding: communicating directly online is like meeting someone in private
7. Stay within the legal framework
8. Respect confidentiality
9. Be mindful of your own security
Followers of the Church in real life and on Twitter (@c_of_e) may already be taking the commandments to heart, but will others flock to join in?
The style of the commandments and the relative lack of ‘do’ and ‘do not’ in the wording is significant in terms of the potential impact that this list might have on a larger audience. It’s been noted that the broader language means that, by slightly adapting commandment three, these could just as easily apply to other religions, atheists, agnostics and even businesses.
We suspect that’s exactly the point – leaving the suggestions deliberately vague and separable from any particular faith could see them adopted more widely as news of the new commandments spreads online. That can only be a good thing and promote better, nicer conversations, and it might well prevent so many social media meltdowns from hitting the headlines in future.
Are you planning to adopt any of the new social media commandments, or do you have some of your own? Leave us a comment or tweet @strattoncraig and let us know what you think.

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