Thou shalt keep thy fad diet to thyself – and other digital commandments | Eleanor Margolis

The Church of England has issued some internet guidelines – but where are the mentions of humble-braggers and grammar nazis?

Holy scripture and the internet – home of porn, nazism and dank memes – seems like an odd combination, which is perhaps why the Church of England’s decision to publish a set of new digital commandments seems a slightly quixotic one. The rules for how to be a good Christian online include not sharing any “sexually explicit” posts, a battle that was, in general, lost long ago. But good on the church for realising that coveting thy neighbour’s ox is a bit 1500BC. What about coveting thy neighbour’s heavily Instagrammed trip to Vietnam?

Besides, the full commandment is: “Do not share sexually explicit, threatening or discriminatory posts.” And for anyone like me, who has experienced being a Jewish lesbian online, you’ll know that the “threatening or discriminatory” part is one that a sizeable chunk of the online population – Christian or otherwise – could usefully heed. It’ll be nice to direct any roving bigots to the digital commandments. The “Verify the accuracy of anything you share online” one actually couldn’t be more apt in the current fake news apocalypse. Then there’s “Speak to others online as you would speak to them in person”, which feels very much like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” for the digital age (as I always wonder if, say, the troll who once called me a “dangerous moron” online would do so to my face. I’d definitely call him a sofa-shagging little Mussolini to his, so perhaps this is a poor example).

This is all well and good. But something’s missing. Where, for starters, is “Thou shalt not humblebrag”? This, of course, remains one of the most irritating online practices. Posting “Stupid little actual baby me just got a promotion and a six-figure bonus” isn’t cute. And the C of E (along with the online population of the entire world) would do well to enshrine this in big stone tablets.

And where is “Thou shalt not enter into the mentions of another, @-ing the person they just subtweeted”? Speaking of which, if we’re going to give the Ten Commandments the internet treatment, someone should also update Dante’s Inferno to include a 10th circle of hell for people who commit this specific crime: “Thou shalt also not explain other people’s funny tweets back to them.” Seriously, don’t do this.

A slightly more serious commandment might be: “When tempted to enter into a pile-on against someone with 50 followers who tweeted something a bit dumb, see your angry tweet as part of a mob-like wall of rage, rather than your own isolated thought.” John Donne may have had thoughts on this: no tweet is an island. In short: “Thou shalt reserve thy righteous indignation for the powerful and stupid, not the mere stupid.” Remembering there’s a real person on the receiving end of your wrath (I think the Bible may also have not looked too kindly on this) is always a good idea.

Oh, and thou shalt not post about how far you ran today, how much caffeine you’ve consumed or how much you love gin. No one cares. So, in a similar vein: “Thou shalt keep whatever fad diet thou art trying out this month to thyself.” No one wants to know how much weight you’ve lost or how regular your bowel movements have become. Social media is for jokes and news, it is not an extension of your Fitbit.

And while we’re addressing the “being smug” category of bad online behaviour: “Thou shalt not correct people’s grammar.” When someone tweets something rude to you with a “your” where there should be a “you’re”, the temptation to point out that they’re a poorly educated oaf can be overwhelming. Do not succumb to this; you’ll only undermine your own rightness by looking like a snob. It’s a much less clever response than you think.

The final and perhaps most important commandment overlooked by the C of E is the following: “Thou shalt not, under any circumstances, including the gravest of duress, use the word ‘methinks’.”

• Eleanor Margolis is a columnist for the New Statesman and Diva


Eleanor Margolis

The GuardianTramp

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