By Jason Soucinek
It seems more and more often, I become increasingly aware of how we position ourselves online and offline. Or rather, how we act when we think no one is watching.
This past year, 2015, was a testament to how prominent this phenomenon is becoming. There is a plethora of headline stories reminding us we don’t know what is really happening in someone’s personal life. Everything from celebrity pitch men being caught with child pornography to prominent Christian voices being caught in the act of adultery.
It should surprise me, but it doesn’t.
Maybe the Internet has caused us to live two different lives. Maybe it has created a multiple personality disorder. While I’m not a social scientist, I do know I am seeing more and more people saying one thing online and doing an entirely different action in real life.
I work a lot with teens and young adults, so maybe this is not entirely surprising.
I fear we are only going to see more of the same trends in the years ahead.
In recent months I’ve listened to podcasts, had conversations with others, and read books on how we fail to acknowledge our whole being. Rather, we fail to bridge the gap between how we act around others and what we do in private.
Social media is changing the way we act
Online we are able to create our own persona. In fact, we can craft an entirely new identity. Our identity is shaped by what we post and others see. This is powerful, but this does not mean it always translates into other aspects of our life.
One book that makes this clear is called Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One’s Looking) by Christian Rudder.
Rudder is the co-founder of OK Cupid and has tons of data showing this multiple personality phenomenon in action. Story after story and data structure after data structure revealed how what we say we want in our online profile might not actually match with what we want in private (or what we actually do when no one is watching).
If we are going to see change in this kind of activity I really believe we’ve got to create a more transparent and vulnerable society.
Here are three truths I believe are important to making this a reality:
Be humble and recognize your own brokenness.
Our human condition, as we read about it in scripture, speaks of our own brokenness. Genesis reveals this reality and Jesus is the solution. But this requires humility…recognizing we don’t know everything and we are all broken. Most importantly, I am broken!
Surround yourself with other transparent and vulnerable individuals.
Often times we model what we see around us. For the last decade many of us have modeled what we see others do online while watching them do something different in their daily lives. We need individuals who are transparent and vulnerable about their own struggles (both online and in person). This takes courage but it also encourages others to do the same!
Place your struggles in the light.
Our secrets only have power when they sit in the darkness. It is why light is such a powerful tool throughout Scripture; it reveals the hidden things in our lives. By placing it in the open the power that our secrets have are washed away almost immediately.