Be yourself, for Heaven’s sake! #digidisciple (@ecarsontc)

I hate those Psychometric Briggs-Meyers type of test.  I am sure the results are different every time I do one.  Of course I am different in different contexts, I behave one way with my close family, differently with other friends and completely differently again with people I don’t know well.  Knowing how adjust one’s behaviour according to context is a key skill of being human and relational!

I always used to consider St. Paul, being “all things to all people” (1Cor 9:22), as insecure much like people who change their accent to mirror those of the people around to better fit in.  Whilst I hope I see things a more maturely these days, I still question what is meant by “just be yourself”.

On job interviews, dates or awkward social situations we are often advised to “be ourselves”…

What the hell does that mean?

The question has especial significance when applied to our online activities.  The inherent anonymity of digital space offers us the chance to get creative with our digital personas.  That gamers choose an online character of the opposite gender to represent them is well documented; the choice is offered and it is all part of the fun of the experience.

As the anonymity of the digital world actively invites each of us to live out alternate fantasies, our ability to ‘be’ or present ourselves online in a manner that is not true is a recurring concern of the digital age.  Whilst the need for discernment over the nature of our relationships is fundamentally similar both on and offline (there are plenty of con-artists in physical space), issues like ‘trolling’ and ‘grooming’ are reported on with increasing frequency .  What then is the place of authenticity in this culture; how important is that I “just be myself” online or is online personality a more fluid concept anyway?

More importantly, how can we interact relationally and according to context within a space where the vast audience of a public arena renders that context diluted or negligible; how can we be “all-things-to-all-people” when at any one moment those people cover the full spectrum of beliefs, value-systems, world-views and understandings?

Put differently, how can we present ourselves to a largely unknown and multi-faceted audience in the manner in which we would best like them to view us as ‘us’?  Anyone who has had to distil the complex details of a full and busy life into 140 characters for a Twitter biography is familiar with that predicament.

But surely projecting a true ‘me image’ is fundamentally flawed anyway, we think we know ‘us’ better than anyone else, but there is another who knows us better still.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5)

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7)

God knows who we are better than we know ourselves, we cannot expect to walk closer to Him and still hang on to who we think we are or who we would like others to think we are.  We cannot expect to journey with him and be unchanged!

With its variety of discussions, and breadth of community, engaging online is an excellent way of progressing on this journey, and it is continual.  There is community living for Christ all the time, not just in Church on Sunday (and maybe a mid-week home-group).  The Word is at work here 24/7!  If we can listen closely and respond appropriately, we can discover a new ‘us’, like a new suit; ready to try on, parade in front of others and return to the tailor for any adjustments He might deem necessary.

We can find something closer to the real us than we had previously imagined.

This can be done in the social security of online space. Secure owing to the fact that (by and large) we are less likely to meet those digital acquaintances at the next family event or local dinner party.  It is not that online relationships are not real ones;  they absolutely are, but their terminations, whilst often as awkward and hurtful as they might be offline, are at least swift, clear and less likely to become protracted.

Online space offers a unique environment to explore and develop ‘me’.

In trying to “be myself” I have first to recognise what ‘myself” really means… Discovering that is the journey of a lifetime.  My twitter biography claims that I aim for “authenticity in digital & physical space”.  I don’t doubt that I am different in these two spaces but the question is, in which space am I ‘me’ as I think am, and in which space am I closer to the ‘me’ that I am meant to be?

How do I bring the two in line?

How about yourself?

About ecarson

Aiming 4 authenticity in Digital & Physical Space. MA student & Ex Hsemaster/IT Tcher. Follow things Godly, Family, TechEd, SexEd, Rowing, Classical, Heraldic.