Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Social Media Guidelines from American Bishops

Mahatma Gandhi is supposed to have said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." I've felt that way, too often. Happily, my faith doesn't depend on my liking the folks who insist that they're Christians and Catholics: I don't need to feel that they're exemplars of the Lord we worship. And that's another topic.

Information Age technology, and the illusion of anonymity that many perceive while engaging with others online, has been blamed for the abyssal lack of charity that some folks show online. I'm old enough to grouse about the decline of everything since 'the good old days,' but I won't.

I was born during the Truman administration, and my memory's pretty good. Some folks were profoundly obnoxious back when color television was cutting-edge technology.

I think the difference is that these days we have opportunities to be obnoxious to more folks than we did before.

We've also got opportunities to act as if we understand what Jesus and His Church has been trying to teach us for almost 2,000 years now. I think that's the more prudent choice.

Noted, yesterday:
"USCCB issues guidelines for use of social media" (July 20, 2010)

"The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued a set of guidelines for using social media, especially as social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter continue to gain in popularity.

" 'Social media are the fastest growing form of communication in the United States, especially among youth and young adults,' the guidelines say. 'Our church cannot ignore it, but at the same time we must engage social media in a manner that is safe, responsible and civil.'

" 'My hope is that they'll be a useful resource to people, especially to dioceses and parishes that are interested in using social media,' said Helen Osman, USCCB secretary for communications, in a July 19 interview with Catholic News Service...."

"...The USCCB's own Facebook site lays out ground rules: 'All posts and comments should be marked by Christian charity and respect for the truth. They should be on topic and presume the good will of other posters. Discussion should take place primarily from a faith perspective. No ads please.' The guidelines recommend 'always' blocking usage by anyone who does not abide by an established code of conduct. 'Do not allow those unwilling to dialogue to hold your site and its other members hostage,' it said.

" 'You would think as Catholics you wouldn't have to remind us to play nice, but it was in every set of guidelines I looked at,' Osman told CNS...."
The article includes a link to:
(Title and link updated November 28, 2011)

The USCCB's document seems to be mostly for "...'church personnel' ... anyone - priest, deacon, religious, bishop, lay employee, or volunteer - who provides ministry or service or is employed by an entity associated with the Catholic Church."

I don't think I'm in the "church personnel" category - although in a sense I'm "employed" by my family as their husband/father, and the family is an entity associated with the Catholic Church in that we are all Catholics. But I think that's carrying the definition a bit far.

So, although the USCCB document's discussion of its Facebook page does say "no ads please," I think I'm safe in leaving advertising on this blog. Like I said, it takes quite a stretch of the imagination to think that I'm employed by an entity associated with the Catholic Church.

Implied endorsement of products and services aside, though, I think the USCCB "Social Media Guidelines" are a good thing to study for any Catholic who has an online presence. Make that 'for anyone.'

Particularly the advice to "play nice."

It's that Golden Rule thing: ""Do to others whatever you would have them do to you...." (Matthew 7:12) (Luke 6:31, too) The idea isn't unique to the Gospels, or to Christianity. Either in the positive form that we've got, or the negative 'don't to to others what you don't want them to do to you,' that basic rule of behavior shows up in many cultures. In my opinion, it's a pretty good example of natural law at work - and that's yet another topic.

Update (July 22, 2010)
Links to related post and a recent op-ed on the Church and social media.

Related posts:

A tip of the hat to catholicspirit, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this article.


Brigid said...

Typo in the title: "Social Media Guidlines"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Uff da. Interesting, though: trying to read that aloud, I sounded a little like a 1st-generation Norwegian-American saying "good lines."

Fixed, and thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.