Tag Archive: facebook


Carrying on the second part of Digital Commandments which were developed with a group of university students.  It is interesting to note how the pioneers of the internet, mainly American Computer Scientists, were very utopian about the new world they were creating.  There was a lot of talk of open-source sharing,  even Google started with its famous ‘Do no evil’ maxim.  The atmosphere has significantly changed, Google is now finding itself fighting legal cases all over the world.  Facebook has turned all its 2 billion users into products,  they have 15,000 employees but only 14 people/entities own more than 1% of its stock.  So in spite of all the cheerleader’s claims about Facebooks  ‘mission’  – as a company, its wealth is profoundly unequally shared and it seems non-meritocratic.

What can account for this mood-change when we think and talk about the internet? As the web became more commercialised those utopian voices are being drowned out by dystopian ones…. Which leads us nicely to the sixth digital commandment  :

6. Thou shall not gamble/spend online with money you do not have  (This led to the most heated debate of the night. Some of the students had heard horror stories of people blowing student loans etc.  Also  as one pointed out, ‘If you are looking at leaving uni with a 50k debt than you stop taking credit seriously until the bailiffs knock on your door’) 

7. Thou shall prioritise speaking to real friends ( We discussed the problems of social isolation, particularly acute withdrawal, which is growing problem on big campuses.  We agreed that is much more effective concentrating on sharing our problems with a few real friends – face to face – over a cup of tea.  The students were particularly interested in the MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s writing – such as ‘Alone Together – why we expect more from technology and less from each other‘ )

8 Thou shall avoid ‘false intimacies’  ( All seemed to agree that when you are lonely, which we all can be, trying to fill the void online led to all sorts of dark places and the risks of blackmail or manipulation seemed to be increasing.  This was something where the ability to digitally discern was important  )

9. Thou shall be true to thyself  ( Many friends are projecting false images and lifestyles into their digital lives …. which leads to jealousy, comparing yourself all the time. To be a digital missionary was about integrity, not using a false name, not doctoring images etc)

10. Thou shall be an online peacemaker  (There’s a lot of anger out there and we don’t need to add to it!) 




Pope Benedict memorably described the Internet as a new Digital Continent in 2009.  I had a very enjoyable evening the other night discussing with university students how to be ‘Digital Missionaries‘ in this new continent. We looked at various topic together such as digital discernment, digital navigation and how to avoid digital rocks (so as not to be shipwrecked).  In the end, we all agreed, as we are on a steep learning curve, we need to teach each other how to use these new technologies wisely.  Maybe even set up a ‘Digital Accountability Group’ to share ideas etc.

As a group we came up with ’10 Digital Commandments’ – here are the first five


  1. Thou Shall not Text / Message or Comment when you are drunk   (No huge explanation needed here, suffice to say that the internet has not learnt to forget or forgive )
  2. On the Sabbath day, thou shall take a rest from the digital life   (It was agreed that addiction was a real problem, Facebook and Snapchat seem particularly immersive environments where too much time is spent and wasted,  non-digital perspectives are increasingly valued)
  3. Honour thy friend and ask permission before you tag  (With the all-pervasive camera, people’s understanding of what is private and what is public varies wildly, just as we should never assume consent, similarly we should never assume permission. There was a good debate about how realistic this could be.)
  4. Thou shall cut down on multitasking  (This came from a very interesting discussion on Nicholas Carr’s book ‘The Shallows’  – and we all agreed at the end of it that multitasking is junk food for the brain – and the web needs more quality not quantity )
  5. Thou must slow down and pause (Practicing digital impulse control is very important, particularly when getting sucked into a flame-war, it is very disedifying to a be a self-righteous Catholic cyberbully (particularly if you are a priest) there’s enough hate out there let’s not be a counter-sign )    

I’ll put up the others tomorrow – any ideas? Please share them.


the-bumpy-transition-from-childhood-to-adolescence-20130110065041-jpg-q75dx720y432u1r1ggcWorking with so many  young people for so long has led me to reflect more on the nature of adolescence, the good, the bad and the ugly!  It seems that the main task of  adolescence  is gaining independence.  Its a journey from a dependent childhood to adulthood, for some it is a long journey, maybe even lasting 20 years or longer. In the UK many factors recently have prolonged the process, expanding higher education, prolonged debt and financial reliance on parents,  marriage happening later (if at all), a globalising job market which is more unstable and temporary.  Adolescences involves a painful trade off – from the comfort of enjoying the benefits of childhood to the uncertainty of emerging into adulthood.  It takes courage and resilience to leave the nest, and a success-addled culture is leaving less space for failure.

Its increasingly obvious that the main task at university, at least at undergraduate level, is socialisation.  Belonging, establishing the more responsible settled patterns of adulthood, this is whats going on at many universities – with 18- 22 year olds.  Lectures, essays and exams, although important, really take a back seat to the challenge of leaving the nest.  It is when they start to specialise at masters and postgraduate level that the knowledge acquisition and contribution come to the forefront.  I have observed that the big universities are very poorly equipped to take the pastoral duties of accompanying young people in their quest to become adults seriously.  Often this is reflected in their student satisfaction ratings.  Here in Manchester it is notable how many of the Chinese students seem so miserable.  The Confucian model of learning is more holistic, with a stress on virtues and the development of character, something that hard-pressed lecturers in many Uk lecturers don’t have enough time for.

1353088148turkle-alone_together_pbAdolescence in many ways an exciting time, with an emerging creativity often linked to rebelliousness, hope, idealism and a youthful beauty.  But there is a dark side of adolescence which American Bill Plotkin calls ‘pathoadolescence‘.  He defines this as being hostilely competitive,  violent, superficial,  materialistic,  greedy,  tribal and ultimately self-destructive.  Interestingly,  he argues that it spawns a variety of cultural pathologies, resulting in contemporary societies that are class-stratified, violent, racist, sexist, ageist.  Certainly, when one looks back at the political discourse of this last year this analysis seems to ring a few bells.  Perhaps the speed of our technological change fuels these trends, Sherry Turkles book  Alone Together –  is certainly worth reading.  Her basic thesis is that our digital age of relentless connection leads to a new solitude. We turn to new technology to fill the void, but as technology ramps up, our emotional lives ‘ramp down’.  Could this lead to a new phenomenon ‘Regressive Adolescence?’.