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Thou shalt not be Piers Morgan

(Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

(Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

July 3, 2019   4 mins

The Church of England has issued a set of what are being called Digital Commandments intended to govern Christian behaviour on social media. The nine commandments include very many wise and kind and sensible things such as “Be Safe”, “Be Respectful”, “Be Honest” and “Take Responsibility” – none of which are, obviously, how it’s done at all. It would kill the whole social media thing stone dead if anyone paid them any attention. Good on them for trying – I don’t expect Aaron Bastani knows which way up to put a chasuble. The real commandments are below.

1. Thou shalt get there first at all costs

If there’s a joke begging to be made, a hot take screaming out to be delivered, an unsourced and inflammatory rumour to be passed on or an unfortunately-worded tweet to be screengrabbed and retweeted, what are you going to do? Stop to consider whether it’s tasteful, decent, proportionate and/or based on anything like reality? HELL NO. Get that sucker up before the next person does and soak up all those sweet retweets.

2. Thou shalt snitch-tag where possible

What profiteth it a man that he seeth his neighbour’s name taken in vain, and he passeth up the opportunity to let his neighbour know all about it? It profiteth him nothing either way, if we’re honest. But it giveth him either a solid lol, a thrill of prurience or a little glow of sanctimony if he catcheth person A slagging off person B and taggethperson B’s handle into his reply, knowing that it will All Kick Off more or less immediately.

3. Thou shalt quote-tweet thy victims

If you disagree with someone on Twitter, it’s not enough simply to reply to them stating your difference, like a person having a civilised conversation. Instead you go for the equivalent of standing up at a restaurant table and bellowing what they said in outrage, then running out onto the street to shout what an idiot they are to passers-by. With a bit of luck – especially if you have 200,000 drooling maniacs following you and your victim has 49 gentle flower-arranging types – their mentions will be dogpiled by neo-Nazis and you can have a good laugh about ruining their day.

4. Thou shalt seek offence

Yea, even unto the ninth generation. There are many creative ways to do this. You can make sure that a piece of racist language or an offensive image goes hurtling round the globe as a by-product of your need to show everyone how earnestly you disapprove. You can trawl through the social media history of political enemies in search of drunken or “problematic” posts. You can wilfully extract a single word or phrase from context, take a figure of speech (especially a violent one) literally, deafen yourself to irony and purposely misunderstand jokes. The main thing is to make sure you supply not a shred of imaginative sympathy or benefit of doubt to anyone outside your tribe.

5. Thou shalt humblebrag

It’s not all about making life a misery for others. Social media is also there to inflate your own fragile sense of self-worth by telling your followers how wonderful you are. But not in a boastful way. Much better to make them hate you by coyly retweeting praise. “So this happened…” you might say above a photo of you with an armload of Oscars, but with a blushing emoji to show how incredibly humble and relatable and surprised you are. Or you retweet over-the-top praise from minor celebrities – but with a comment saying you can’t BELIEVE how kind they are to say that. #proud #blessed #humbled.

6. Thou shalt pick the scab

Once you’re in a hole, as Confucius did not say, keep digging. Never, never, walk away from the scene of a disaster. Never accept you’ve been misunderstood, or owned, or that the argument’s not worth having, shrug and walk away.  Rather, double down and double down again. Think of Richard Dawkins and his confiscated jar of honey, or the guy who (as far as I know he’s still at it) attempted to explain to the entire laughing internet why he was right about the name of the female external genitalia and the entire laughing internet was wrong.

7. Thou shalt thirst-trap

Nothing says “aren’t I attractive” like sending a picture of you looking attractive out into the world for zillions of strangers to gawp at. Young women! Men who go to the gym! Perhaps you have some lovely boobs you would like to share with the world. See your follower count soar, and then enjoy publicly shaming the creepy losers who slide into your DMs shortly afterwards. Especially satisfying to note when some middle-aged saddo makes clear they are trawling your feed by accidentally liking a fruity photo from three years ago.

8. Thou shalt make it about thou

Perhaps someone famous has died and you once met them. Perhaps you chance upon two people having a friendly conversation about a subject in which you’re interested and, despite one of them having written a book on it, you’re pretty sure you can help set them straight on a couple of things. Perhaps you’ve spotted someone feeling sorry for himself or herself about something that’s a bit like something that happened to you only not as bad. Why not reach out the hand of… making it all about you?

9. Thou shalt revel in the ratio

Let’s not caricature social media as being all about either showing off or humiliating other people. Sometimes it’s good just to sit back, keep your counsel and benefit from the experience and wisdom of others. That is, when somebody says something really, really stupid and obnoxious, and their post has earned 37,000 replies and a minuscule number of retweets that can confidently be ascribed to “fat thumb” errors by mobile users trying to reply, rejoice. They have been “ratioed”, and you have not. Feel free to add a reply saying: “Only here for the ratio”.

10. Thou shalt not be Piers Morgan

It is possible to go too far with all this stuff. If you ever find yourself opening a social media post with the word “BOOM!”, needily trolling young woman celebrities, or picking fights with random strangers about obscure menu items in bakeries, check the mirror. Do you look like Piers Morgan? If so, check your wallet. If it’s full of money and all the credit cards have Piers Morgan’s name on them, you are in breach of the tenth and most important commandment and must immediately delete your account.

Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator. His forthcoming book, The Haunted Wood: A History of Childhood Reading, is out in September.

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