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Fifteen years ago, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube didn’t exist. Today, 67% of people in the UK are active users of at least one of them, and we now spend almost two hours each day on social media. Yet society is increasingly fearful of the risks of fake news and harmful content and distrustful of the very platforms that consume so much of our time.

Our lives are irreversibly online, lived with ever decreasing levels of privacy and hyperstimulated to a relentless place. Few of us have stopped to properly consider what it means to live well in this age, but as Christians, we have an essential part to play in the shape of online society.

This week the national Church launched a Digital Charter, which includes guidelines and a pledge that anyone can add their name to as part of a personal commitment to making social media a more positive place. I’ve signed up to the Charter, and I hope you will too.

As a Diocese, we’ve been spending time exploring what it means to be a more Christ-like Church for the sake of God’s world. It’s a journey that started three years ago as we studied the Beatitudes together. Recently I’ve begun to ponder what those eight beautiful qualities might mean for social media and our online lives.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I will remember that my identity comes from being made and loved by God, not from my online profile.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted This world is full of grief and suffering.
I will tread softly and post with gentleness and compassion.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
I will not boast or brag online, nor will I pull others down.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
There are many wrongs to be righted. I will not be afraid to name them and look for justice in the world.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
I will not judge others but be generous online. I will be conscious of my own failings.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
I will be truthful and honest, and I will not pretend to be what I am not.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
I will seek to reconcile those of different views with imagination and good humour.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I will not add to the store of hate in the world, but I will try to be courageous in standing up for what is right and true.

You can download a card (colour version | black and white version) to keep near your phone and tablet and share this social media graphic online.

Advances in technology have brought sharp ethical dilemmas and deeper questions of human identity. There are important debates to be had about the exploitation of our personal data, along with the threats (and benefits) of AI. These will take time and will require legislation, but we can also do something right now: let us each play our part in making social media kinder.

 

+Steven
June 2019

Further reading:

#CofECharter

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