These commandments are not canonical, not inspired and not particularly qualified in any way. But then neither is 98% of the other advice online, so here goes...
People hate me online. Hard to believe, I know. I’m delightful. And I hold such universally popular views. But they do. Be it for my incessant posting of political material on Facebook, my regular morning explosions of rage at the Today Programme on Twitter or my shameless use of social media for self-promotion and dubious jokes. I’m a nightmare.
So hear me when I say that I’m no great example. I have sinned against most, if not all of these and, honestly, I just thought them up. They are, however, a decent place to start if your aim is not to be a super annoying or unpleasant online presence.
Don’t feel you have to obey them though. Create get-out clauses and exceptions. Write your own and send them to Premier Christianity. Don’t take them too seriously. It’s not like they’re written in stone.
1. Thou shalt not fight for Jesus
Aggressive argument bent on winning and humiliating the opponent rather than bringing them over to your side – is so unappealing. Studies show that 92% of aggressive religious arguments online result in neither side’s view changing at all**.
Argue about politics. Argue about sports. Argue about whether Jeremy Corbyn is to blame for the One Direction split. Argue about almost anything else that doesn’t matter as much as the person you’re arguing with’s eternal salvation. Talk instead. Talk in private. Talk in love.
2. Thou shalt not bear false witness
We all think the person in the pew next to us has the Christian life more sussed than we do. So we pretend we are not sad, not sinful, not who we really are, only ever talking about the broken places in our lives in the past tense as part of an up-front testimony.
There’s immense pressure to give the impression that your life is more exciting, glamourous and perfect than it really is. Try not to use social media to give people a false impression of how amazing your life is or how holy you are. It doesn’t make you any happier and it might make someone else hate their life unnecessarily.
3. Thou shalt not share garbage
This goes for unsupported claims of miracles or persecution, naïve, unhelpful and unbiblical quotes about how God makes everything in life pleasant for his followers and, of course, invitations to Candy Crush Saga. Which may or may not be the abomination which causes desolation.
You are not being a good Christian by sharing things that turn out to be nonsense. You are making us all look stupid.
4. Honour your friends and family
Nobody wants the photo posted in which they look terrible but you look awesome. Don’t be that guy. Do unto others.
Don’t gain support from your friends in your hate campaign against a partner, ex partner, friend or ex friend. This is partly because that’s the worst kind of backstabbing and gossip, but mostly because it is so boring for everyone else.
Thou shalt also not take credit for other people’s cool stuff. A simple tip of the hat or thanks to the person who introduced you to the cool picture, the insightful article or the video of a cat playing with an otter (no, I won’t link to one here, find it yourself) will make them feel good and prevent people thinking of you as a social media kleptomaniac.
5. Thou shalt not be harshly condescending to a brother or sister that posts really old stuff.
Some people just discovered Gangnam style. And that’s okay. If you feel the need to shame or belittle them just to prove you knew it already, that is pride.
6. Thou shalt not complain about people who post pictures of their babies, pets or food.
Or articles about politics, diet or whatever it is that normal people post.
Why must they change what they post to suit what you find interesting? Hide them from your feed. Use the ‘see less from this person’ feature. Take some interest in other people’s stuff and stop thinking everyone else is here to entertain you. They may be boring, but you’re clearly demanding. Call it even.
7. Thou shalt not humblebrag
Humblebragging is bragging dressed up as a complaint. Pride and self-promotion dressed down as modesty. 'Sorry, I can’t see you tonight. Premier Christianity just can’t get enough of my writing, so I’m busy.'
If you’re excited about going somewhere cool on holiday or achieving something impressive, just say so. Don’t assume you’re fooling anyone in a cloak of weirdness.
It’s a well known fact** that the first humblebrag in biblical history was a papyrus that said: 'Man it sucks to live in such a huge, beautiful pyramid. Can’t reach the lintel or door frames with this lamb’s blood, the entrance is so huge. What’s worse is I’m the first born son, so I’m going to inherit this impractical mansion.' And you know what happened to that guy.
8. Thou shalt not say cryptically dramatic things to get attention
If you need to hear the phrase 'You okay, babe?' so badly, then record it and set it as a ringtone. Please, for the love of all that is good and pure in the world, just stop posting things like 'Well that’s just great' or 'I guess there’s no point even trying'.
We get it. Everyone is awful. You are nice. But if you have to say it (but can’t bring yourself to do so directly) maybe someone is out there writing passive aggressive statuses about you. And if we know both of you then we are left watching your unconsummated fighting like boxers in zorbs.
Also: you there, posting this sort of stuff in the form of nicely designed 'quotes' (usually by 'Anonymous'), don’t think you’re fooling anyone.
9. Thou shalt not put ‘clever’ above ‘helpful’
We’re about due for another ice bucket challenge or ‘turn your profile pic into your favourite dog on children’s TV in the 80s to raise awareness of dog-fighting in Ukraine’ type of popular social media movement. There will be elements of it that will be poorly thought out. Its ubiquity will be super annoying.
But not as annoying as the tedious, predictable blowhards who clearly feel their calling in life is to channel the spirit of cumulonimbus clouds, for yea, do they love to rain upon every parade. And verily, are they hated. The worst are people who give a pseudo-Christian reason for their joyless policing of other people’s enthusiasm.
Don’t like the new craze? Don’t participate. Think there’s a better way to do it? Well then model it and make it popular, smart guy. Spare us your utterly charmless public sermonising that pretends not to be all about making you look smarter than the herd.
10. Thou shalt not post pictures of your coffee.
It literally comes out of a machine. And before that, it was in a bag. Literally every barista in the world can make that leaf pattern in the foam, so please believe me when I say there is absolutely nothing special about your coffee. Get a grip.
**This is not a fact, I made it up. But it sounds legit, right?