Internet Behaviour

Bishop Seraphim : Article
Internet Behaviour
[Published in the “Canadian Orthodox Messenger”, Summer 1996]

God created everything good. That is how it is. In the Symbol of Faith (Nicene Creed) we daily affirm that we believe this when we affirm that He created everything that is. We also understand that we believe that the turmoil in creation is connected with our sin, and so it is.

Although I say this with a certain reluctance, I suppose that we have produced in computers something with capability for good. Moreover, an opportunity for very rapid communication has also been developed with the creation of the internet. However, just as with everything else, so it is with computers (and especially with the internet) : there is always the possibility of behaviour which, through sin, can separate us from each other and from God.

On the positive side, the internet produces an unimaginably broad field for instant communication. It is also providing us evangelical opportunities. The various web-sites on the World Wide Web, for example, give the seeker the ability to find the Orthodox Christian Faith with ease. This has great potential for us, especially in the next few years in North America, since all signs point to the near future as being an immense opportunity for the Orthodox Church in the field of evangelism. Our OCA now has its own web-site. For any of you who have the capability of contacting it, the address of the Orthodox Church in America is Here one can find basic information on all our parishes and programmes ; there are news releases available. Soon, the OCA newspaper and various diocesan publications will appear there. There will be links to other sites on the web.

A different entity from the web is the internet, which also offers a tool for instant communication. Through this medium people can talk to each other individually or on various “lists”. These so-called lists are groups of people who share similar interests and can discuss those interests with the entire subscribed group. There are presently at least two very active Orthodox lists on “the net”. These can, of course, be a source of valuable information, support and edification, but they can also be a great source of temptation.

The Tempter is always looking for new opportunities to get in and mess around. Communication is important, but one must be very careful to be sensitive, responsible, and serious in writing in a medium where everyone and anyone (especially in the discussion groups) has access to what is written. This medium is not like writing letters, and it is certainly not like face-to-face conversation.

Still more important, one must be careful to avoid the temptation to gossip on the internet. Falling into gossip in this medium has already caused many people pain, inconvenience, heartache, and in some cases, irreparable damage. There is also a certain pressure and responsibility with e-mail, because of its immediacy. Time to reflect is reduced, and sometimes a too-swift reaction can be a temptation in itself. In fact, what might be yet more dangerous is that there are so many people who instinctively react to whatever is in print as if it were fact and truth by virtue of its being in print.

Here is where the real responsibility lies for those who write – knowing the vulnerability of others, and being compassionately sensitive about it. Such vulnerability, I might add, is found as often in the well-educated as in those who are less so. The principle of our Holy Fathers is that communication should always be good. Silence is preferable to gossip. I want all to be aware of the responsibility that comes with this utility, and to be aware most particularly of the spiritual elements therein. All things that are good can be twisted or mis-used by us. They can also be used to God’s glory — and may that be always the way !