Digital exposure #digidisciple (@jamesprescott77)

http://www.sxc.hu/photo/14206

Have you ever posted something in the digital realm, and then wish you hadn’t?

Whether it be a blog post, or a status update on a social networking site, that you later wish you hadn’t posted, that proved more trouble than it’s worth?

I mean how often have we seen famous Twitter users post something in the heat of the moment then live to regret it, having been slated by the media for something they have posted that’s upset a lot of people? It happens way too often for comfort. Even once they’ve taken down the offending post, the impact of it goes on long afterwards.

Deleting it is almost meaningless.

The truth is that you might be able to hit the delete button on the post, comment or blog – but you can’t take back the sentiment quite so easily.

Once you’ve put it out there and it’s been read, in one sense it doesn’t matter if you delete it – it’s out there, people have responded to it, it’s impact goes on.

What can happen then is that you end up having to post an apology, or even worse, lose a friendship or relationship over it. You can cause a great deal of pain and suffering to people with only 140 characters, or less.

The pain that’s inflicted through these kind of online reactions is not superficial. It’s not fake nor false. It was not any less painful than that felt through hurtful interactions with people face to face.

It was real.

To deny that is simply to deny reality. The digital realm and it’s impact are very real.

But one of the reasons so many of us are afraid to admit the reality of the digital realm, is that the digital realm exposes truths about us that it’s much easier to hide behind in the physical realm. Ironically this is the realm that’s often termed ‘reality’ as opposed to the ‘virtual reality’ of the digital realm.

An accusation that has been made is that in the digital realm we construct a social self we can hide behind, which makes it less ‘real’.

But we do that in the physical realm anyway.

We all have a social self we present to the world, a personality and set of behaviours that we put on for people – and Facebook and Twitter are often merely reflections of that. That self may represent part of who we are, but it doesn’t represent the entire truth. There’s a self that we hide from people in the physical realm – and we can do the same in the digital realm.

The perception is that the digital realm is the place we go to hide. There is a certain level of truth in that, and it probably does happen – but actually we often hide in the physical realm too.

In one sense, all the digital realm does in this case is to highlight what is already true about us, it exposes the truth rather than hides it.

I have found that with my own insecurities. My fears about people’s opinions of me, my struggles with trusting others, my lack of confidence. The digital realm has only highlighted and made these insecurities and fears more real.

It’s the digital realm that has, in some cases, first exposed me to these deep insecurities and fears – that had been there the whole time.

When we’re physically interacting with people, it’s a lot easier to hide in one sense.

There’s more noise. More voices.

We can use certain language, phrases, expressions, to hide behind – and only very close friends or experts in body language would really be able to tell any different. We might have all these voices going on your head, all these doubts, but it’s easier to ignore them and pretend they aren’t there when we’re talking outloud or others are, when we’re in a big group.

We can forget the difficult stuff and ignore it.

But when we’re on a smartphone, or sitting in front of our computer, we simply can’t hide.

In that space you can’t so easily escape from the voices in your head or the emotions in your heart – the insecurities, doubts and fears that you have about yourself and your relationships with others.

We’ve either never had the space or opportunity to acknowledge them – or we’ve simply ignored them

Be honest.

When you’ve been left alone with your thoughts and your method of digital interaction, I’m sure there are moments where you’ve caught yourself thinking or feeling something you hadn’t before – or maybe a fear, doubt, or insecurity you’ve always had but been able to ignore?

Or you’ve been interacting online and questions, fears or doubts which you may not have experienced before just pop into your mind – some for a fleeting moment, others for longer – because you know they might be true.

We must acknowledge these fears, doubts, and insecurities, bring them before God, and allow Him to deal with them with us. It can be really beneficial for our own growth in relationship with God, and allow us to know ourselves – and God – better.

In conclusion, it is engagement with the digital realm, what is more and more ridiculously called ‘virtual reality’, that in fact, exposes truths about us. Truths that paradoxically it’s much easier to run away from in the physical realm – or what is called ‘real life’.

It’s only by being honest about these insecurities, doubts, and fears, and acknowledging them, that we are able to enter fully into the process of discipleship that God has for us.

If the digital realm helps us to do that, it can add another dimension to our relationship with God, with others and indeed with ourselves, and actually aid us in the process of becoming better followers of Jesus, more the people God originally made us to be.

About James P

James Prescott (@JamesPrescott77) is a writer & creative living in Sutton, near London in the UK. He blogs regularly at www.jamesprescott.co.uk on issues concerning social media, gender and the divine journey of life. Follow him on Twitter at @JamesPrescott77