There is an interesting story on the BBC news about one Church of England Diocese producing some Social Media guidelines. The Diocese of Bath and Wells guidelines are here and some similar advice produced by the Methodist Church is here.
Most of the guidance is obvious enough:
1. Remember what you post is public so think first. Would you like your parents / spouse / children to read it? How would it look on the front page of the Newspaper? And remember what you put online is permanent.
2. Be someone of integrity. Make sure what you say is truthful, fair and appropriate for you to share / comment on (think safeguarding and confidentiality).
3. Be yourself. Don't hide behind anonimity but rather be yourself and an be an ambassador for Christ.
The one which is not so obvious (to me at least) is the advice to be careful of public / private boundaries. The distinction between personal views and public statements and between private life and public duties is hard to maintain.
What other advice would you give to ministers and christian leaders using social media?
On the personal/public distinction, it’s also interesting to ask how much longer this distinction will carry cultural weight.
It’s a distinction I still find very useful, but it’s also one which I would say is less-and-less followed (or even recognised/perceived) by many in my age group. Though interestingly, I found it to be a much stronger distinction in German speaking countries.
Perhaps the longer term trend will be for the distinction to disappear entirely, as technological change remaps the boundaries of our social interactions. That could well be one reason why the NSA/GCHQ stories fail to gain much traction – in a world where the distinction between personal and private is fuzzy or non-existent, it becomes a lot less problematic if mass harvesting of data occurs.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the distinction recently, particularly seeing a lot of parent bloggers/photos/tweeters going around, again from people in my age group. I found myself feeling quite uncomfortable at the trend and I think I’m uncomfortable at the parents’ choice to give away a child’s private life without their consent by posting embarrassing stories/photos on the internet – often even during pregnancy. It seems to be a huge presumption on the part of the parent that the child will be OK with it in the future. That’s not to say this is a well thought through reaction, but it’s definitely my gut feeling at the moment!