Ethical Guidelines for Social Media Networks During the Pandemic

by | Apr 25, 2020 | Formation, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Last year, during a meeting of the General Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (Oporto, Portugal), a series of guidelines were approved for the use of the social networks. Although primarily addressed to the members of the Society, these guidelines are universal and valid for all members of the Vincentian Family … they are especially appropriate during the time of this pandemic when so much false news is being published on the social networks.

In June 2019, during the annual meeting of the General Council held in Porto (Portugal), the document entitled “Ethical Protocol for Social Media” was approved by all countries. That document contains numerous recommendations with regard to the most appropriate use that should be adopted when using the social networks.

Currently, we are living in difficult times as a result of the pandemic (the coronavirus … Covid-19). This situation has impacted the daily life of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP) and sadly has affected the worldwide community, with thousands of deaths, in addition to immeasurable damage to the economy (generating more poverty, indigence and unemployment). After this crisis there will also be great challenges for all of us.

In this regard, some of the recommended guidelines with regard to the use of social networks have not been observed (especially in the area of the posting of videos and photographs of social activity). Of course, the SSVP needs to make itself known in order to attract new members and more donations. However, in pursuit of this mission, our institution can never violate the privacy of vulnerable and sick people. “We are unprofitable servants … such is the witness of those unite together in order to serve God and humankind … ‘do not make known, but do no dissimulate’ is what our motto should be” (Letter of Antoine-Frederic Ozanam to François Lallier, October 5, 1837).

Furthermore, any action focused on personal self-promotion is contrary to the spirit of the Rule, to the Vincentian tradition and to the legacy of the seven founders. Vincentians are discreet by nature and their actions are reserved and silent (Matthew 6, 1-4). Images of noncompliance during the quarantine give counter-witness and draw attention to a very harmful social disobedience image of our Society.

The National or Superior Councils, when they identify inappropriate behavior or attitudes, especially in the use of social media networks, have a moral obligation to carry out fraternal correction (Matthew 18, 15-20). Renato Lima de Oliveira (International President) stated: “Only with adequate spiritual formation, based on the Vincentian virtues and on the tradition of our Society, will we avoid possible deviations when in engaged in activities of social solidarity.”

We kindly ask for the careful reading of the “Ethical Protocol” and we ask for everyone’s support in spreading its content among the members, especially among the Vincentian leaders and those responsible for social communication of the SSVP. We will win this crisis, since humankind has already overcome other epidemics and natural disasters.

Click here to read the “Ethical Protocol for Social Media.”