Questions of identity preoccupy us – much more than has ever been the case, historically speaking. This is so on account of the leisure time we are afforded, the levels of wealth we have attained, and the public personas we now necessarily create and craft via our social media profiles.
In the contemporary world we have time to develop an interest in particular artists or particular social movements; time and resources to shop for clothing and accessories that project a certain image or style; the ability to mark our bodies (hair die, tattoos, piercings, etc.) in ways that publicly declare our persona; we have online platforms that require us to make decisions about which photos or personal stories or opinions we will share. A few weeks ago I preached a sermon that explored, in part, how our shoes are even, now, a significant feature of this persistent crafting of our image. (See that sermon here.)
This whole exercise in creating and maintaining our image can be an exhausting affair – and it will surprise none of us to hear that some friends or acquaintances have given up Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (etc., etc.) for Lent. Giving up social media, in particular, can be a way to provide ourselves with room to breathe – a way to give up on the never-ending cycle of comparison and projection, instead seeking our identity where it truly and finally resides, by resting in God. Although social media is by no means the only locus in this cycle of self-referential and self-preoccupied identity formation, it is the most difficult to wrestle with given its ubiquity – giving it up no doubt helps puts life in perspective.
But aside from giving up social media, for Lent or otherwise, perhaps another way to humanize and de-pressurize the whole enterprise is through a kind of ironic or transparent naming of our self-preoccupation. A kind of detachment that is willing to examine ourselves – and to let others see us examining ourselves. Continue reading