Trolls, hate mail, cyber bullying: internet rage has become common. And who of us has not lost her or his temper? But there is a way we can contribute in making the internet a better place.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Co.—social media offers fantastic opportunities to get in touch and stay in touch. The danger lies in usage.
But there is help from the Social Media Guideline of the New Apostolic Church. No, these are not rules with which the Church seeks to interfere in the private lives of its members. These are recommendations based on extensive practical experience for all those who are aware that, even on social media, they are bearing witness to their faith as Christians with their behaviour.
The guideline has been written for Church members and anyone else who is interested. In addition, it provides information for communication officers in the regional churches and for ministers. Clear positions and recommendations distinguish the paper.
The heart of the Guideline: the Codex
1. We respect our neighbour. We maintain a respectful tone and are aware that we are communicating with other people. We have consideration for their emotions and feelings. That is why we refrain from any expression which could be construed as racist, violent, extremist, fanatic, sexist, discriminatory, or otherwise offensive. We publish only what we would say to the recipient in a personal conversation.
2. We are friendly. A clear, understandable language—free of irony, sarcasm, or provocation—is the basis for a constructive exchange of views. Rage, anger, and frustration do not lead anywhere. Criticism is possible, as long as it is not hurtful or personal. Problems with individual people are not discussed publicly. We remain calm, even when others are not.
3. We are honest and authentic. We use our real name and do not deceive. If we are not serving the Church in an official capacity on social media, we can decide for ourselves whether we admit in our profile whether we are working full-time or voluntarily for the New Apostolic Church.
4. We respect the intellectual property of others. Content, whether text or images, may in general only be published with the permission of the original author (copyright). When third parties are quoted, the quotes must be clearly identified and the source of the quote given. Quotes are only ever used as a supplement to one’s own thoughts (right to quotes). If pictures or videos are published, the people depicted must be in agreement (right to one’s own image).
5. We act responsibly. Each person is responsible for the content which he publishes on social media. We do not speculate. Communication on the Internet is often simple and in places banal. Whenever it concerns topics to do with Church we try to keep the conversation above the ordinary.
6. We spread good news. We are witnesses of our faith and the public face of our Church. In our activities on social media we demonstrate Christian values.
7. We protect the private sphere. We are aware that what we communicate on the Internet is, on principle, public. Even if we try to limit the visibility of our social media activities to certain people, content can at any time be redirected, either inadvertently or on purpose, and thus be made public. Private information must remain private. This includes, among other things, personal data and confidential information.
8. We keep politics and business separate from Church involvement. As far as social media activities for the Church are concerned, we refrain from any party political remarks. Likewise, we keep a strict separation between voluntary or Church involvement and business or professional interests.
9. Count us in. A responsible use of social media during work time may be possible. We clarify with our superiors to what extent we may, during work time, use social media to establish contacts, increase our knowledge, or build networks.
10. We do not have to know everything. If we are unsure we ask the person in charge. We do not spread rumours. When we make a mistake we admit it, apologise, and learn from it.