TWITTER, Instagram, Facebook, and other forms of social media: Is it true they inadvertently, perhaps purposely, influence us, especially children, in a way that is not good for us?

They can play an important role in providing unbiased and independent news, can highlight corruption and other bad practices. On the other hand, they may harm mental health, promote inappropriate content and treat us as “valuable but untapped audience”.

How can we properly discern what is harmful and what not, what is uplifting and appropriate? Who sets the bar? Quakers are lucky: they can consult “Advices & Queries”, a selection of writings, drawing on Quaker wisdom past and present. Many see them as inspiration and guidance to act as catalyst for their life journeys or as part of private reflection. They are something that is definitely safe to access on the internet, without negative effects.

For example, #33 asks, “Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs?” and then advises, “Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?”

Two others (#37 and #38) challenge by asking, “Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility?” “If pressure is brought upon you to lower your standard of integrity, are you prepared to resist it?”

Finally, good advice in #39, relevant to social media and other sources, “Consider which of the ways to happiness offered by society are truly fulfilling and which are potentially corrupting and destructive. Be discriminating when choosing means of entertainment and information. Resist the desire to acquire possessions or income through unethical investment, speculation or games of chance.” Why not go online and look out for more?

Wilf Fenten

Clerk to Airton Quaker Meeting