C of E: Use social media kindly — or be blocked

05 July 2019

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Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn, in conversation with Archbishop Welby

Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn, in conversation with Archbishop Welby

CHRISTIAN social-media users should interact with “truth, kindness, and welcome”, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, as he launched new social-media guidelines for the Church’s national social-media accounts.

The guidelines were announced in conjunction with a Digital Charter, which people are being urged to sign up to, to create a more positive atmosphere online.

In a statement on Monday, Archbishop Welby said: “Each time we interact online, we have the opportunity either to add to currents of cynicism and abuse, or to choose instead to share light and grace.

“My prayer is that, through these guidelines and charter, we can encourage regular and not-so-regular churchgoers, sceptics, and those who are surprised to find themselves interested, to be open to think and experience more of the Christian faith.”

The new guidelines apply to people who interact with social-media accounts run by Church House, Lambeth Palace, and Bishopthorpe. The guidelines include being safe, kind, respectful, and honest; taking responsibility; being a good ambassador; disagreeing well and credit others; and following the rules [of the social-media platform].

Failure to do so will result in comments being deleted, users being blocked, or comments reported, as appropriate.

In an interview with Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, Nicola Mendelsohn, on Monday, Archbishop Welby said that there was “no such thing as an alternative fact”, and that he had seen how “savagely social media can be used”.

He said: “Look at any article, and then look at the comments below it, and, very quickly, you find stuff that is just poison. . . When you’re talking on social media, put the truth out. There’s no such thing as an alternative fact: there are opinions, and there is truth.

“When you are expressing an opinion, do so with kindness. And be welcoming: don’t throw out stuff, tweet, or post things; that is a shut-out. That’s not the point of social media. It is social media.”

He went on: “Digital enables us to reach out, to communicate, to have a voice in a way we couldn’t always do. . . Social media is part of community: it is not all of community. . . In the end, community is about sight and hearing, holding the hand of somebody who is ill or suffering, welcoming people whom you know well. It is the things you can’t do on social media: physical community matters.”

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