Please be careful!

Making the Internet better and safer—a futile endeavour in the year 2019? We can all do our part to make this happen! And we can also find some highly relevant thoughts and centuries-old advice on the subject—right in the Bible.

“Together for a better Internet”—so runs the international motto of the Safer Internet Day initiative. As a result of today’s campaign, activities are underway in both schools and businesses in over 140 countries. Press conferences and video posts in social media complement the event both online and offline.

The range of subjects covered by this initiative is quite exhaustive: almost always, it deals with the private sphere, personality rights, and protection against fraud schemes. A special focus is on the protection of children and young people. At times the discussions turn to cyberbullying—which incorporates deliberate insult, exposure, and harassment—and at other times the dialogue revolves around extremism, fake news, or cyber grooming. Nearly every Internet user will be affected by one thing or another at some point. The many nationwide initiatives offer advice, ideas, and concrete assistance.

Please be careful!

When asked about social media at a youth summit in mid-2017, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider listed four dangers: the tendency for people to construct fake worlds, to overvalue their ego, to regard all values as being on the same level, and to violate human dignity. And in his statements he also went on to immediately explain the reasons for these warnings. In his closing remarks at the time, he asked the young Christians to “Please be careful!”

The Social Media Guideline

Our dealings with one another are to incorporate mutual appreciation and respect. They are to be transparent and authentic. For a Christian, this should actually be quite clear! In the age of virtual personalities, nicknames, and online profiles, however, the question of how to live up to this demand when using social media is certainly justified.

The foreword of the Social Media Guideline of the New Apostolic Church states that “the ministers and employees of the Church, along with its members—who quite naturally also profess their faith online—should know the position of the New Apostolic Church with respect to activities on social media.” After all, “it is important for all to be aware of the implications their statements may have, and to conduct themselves in a manner that shows appreciation and respect for others—in accordance with the gospel.”

Being respectful

Being respectful is also one of the key appeals of Safer Internet Day. It states: “When you’re online, engage responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively”—a good piece of advice, albeit one that is not always so easy to put into practice. Where does the good joke end—and insult to my neighbour begin? Some things are clear, but others require some additional reflection.

The fact that this is an age-old question is clear from the epistle of Apostle Peter: “[Do not return] evil for evil or reviling for reviling,” he advises, before going on to add, “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit” (1 Peter 3: 9-10).

And then it suddenly becomes quite clear once again that the application of the Christian faith is most certainly not limited to the Christian as an individual, but also to the community in which she or he lives.

Photo: Marcel Kusch/klicksafe

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Oliver Rütten
Media, Congregational life