How much do you love being reminded of things you said and did two years ago? Five years ago? Ten?
Well, pretty much every day I’m reminded through the Facebook ‘On this Day’ app, where it shows me what I posted on this day, all the way back to those first days on Facebook when you had to craft your status around that pesky word ‘is’.
Part of me loves it. I love seeing pictures of my son from when he was little and marveling at what he is like now.
Yet, to be honest, I don’t always love what I’m shown. Twenty year old Sarah used Facebook much differently to 30 year old Sarah. And present day Sarah cringes a bit when she sees some of the things 20 year old Sarah saw fit to post.
Is it ok to go back and edit your online narrative?
But I have an ethical dilemma. Do I let those posts that embarrass me now stay up there? It’s not likely that anyone is going to scroll all the way back and view them (and laugh at me, let’s be honest).
Yet, if I delete those posts it feels like I’m being inauthentic, or untrue with my online identity.
I asked some friends what they do and many of them ‘hide’ the post, so it’s not deleted but only they can see it.
Is our online persona supposed to match exactly who we are?
I suppose a broader question is: Should we aim to for our online identity to reflect as much as possible, who we are in real life?
I feel that would take a lot of work because there is so much more to who we are than can be captured in a series of posts, tweets (more than 140 characters now – so maybe it’s possible!) and insta pics.
But we also can sniff out the ones who are faking it. Who use insta and Facebook to craft a more ‘aspirational’ version of themselves. Perhaps more reserved for the younger users, for whom the opinions of their peers holds ultimate sway.
Social media for broadcasting and connection
As I reflect, I see that there are two ways we tend to use social media: broadcasting and connecting. Usually we do a mix of both
To define those terms, by broadcasting I mean those generic posts that don’t address anyone particularly. Like Father’s Day/Mother’s Day posts, extolling the virtues of your parent with a speech that, as long as they’re on Facebook to read it, would make them teary eyed at the sentiment of their offspring. Or…yes…the picture of your smashed avo and eggs benedict for breakfast.
I see connecting as writing on someone’s *actual* wall. Or, if you’re a millennial (or younger), tagging your friend in memes. (Sorry, I’m not even going to start explaining that for those not in the know. There aren’t enough words).
Connection is action where your aim is to connect with a person more intentionally than just throwing something out there and see how many likes and what kind of comments you get.
Your posts add up to your online identity
In the end, whatever we post, becomes a part of our online narrative and identity. A curious experiment would be to scroll down the wall of your friends and look at their posts, their pictures, their tags. What kind of personal identity can you put together?
Does it match your perception of your friend?
And what about your Facebook wall or Instagram feed? Are the things that are important to you prominent? Things you support or dislike? Or do you stay quiet? Are your posts thought provoking, funny, endless rants and whinges, or drawing attention to series issues or the mundane?
How Christian are you on social media?
A very important part of my identity-the defining part, really-is that I am a Christian. And yet, this probably doesn’t reflect as much these days in what I post. Does this mean I’m not being true to myself online?
Well, for one I – and other Christians – should never hide the fact that we are Christian on our online identity. To actively hide it would beg the question – are you ashamed of Jesus? And we must never be ashamed, or deny that we belong to Him.
At the same time, I don’t want to beat anyone over the head with my faith. Nor do I want to post anything that could be misread and thus, drive anyone away from hearing about Jesus.
Social media is useful – but it can never replace personal connection
I think it’s useful to have social media to be honest about what we believe, there are shortcomings to not being able to connect with someone *in person* about things that are personal and complex, like our faith.
By all means, share your church events, wish people a Merry Christmas and share articles that you think would be helpful.
Just tread lightly, and always offer the opportunity to connect offline if a post or issue invites further conversation where verbal and non-verbal cues are vital for understanding.
I might still look back and cringe on my past Facebook posts. And I may even delete some (or I’m going to be cringing every year!). But it’s a good chance to take stock of how I’ve changed and matured – and check out if my online self is getting even close to who I really am.
Sarah Urmston is a follower of Jesus whose current season of life sees her fully occupied by raising two gorgeous young children with her husband Stephen. In moments when time allows for pursuits of the heart, Sarah loves to keep in touch with friends (especially thanks to Facebook), sing and play piano, and enjoy a good cup of tea.
Sarah Urmston previous articles may be viewed