A lot of people often post their rants, complaints, and beef against someone, or against the world in general, on their Social Media profiles. For all the world to see. Some of them could easily earn the Drama King or Queen Award on Facebook.
Some of my friends are also fond of ‘Instagramming’, posting photos of their food, whether savory or not; of the heavy traffic, some random cuteness, selfies, pics of their babies or whole families. I know of a friend whose Facebook timeline mainly contains pics of her growing baby.
One particular friend also loves to check into all the places he goes to–the office, Starbucks, a store in the mall, and his apartment, which he refers to as his Castle on Foursquare.
In this hyperconnected, always on world, we have become the star of our own Reality TV Show, except that we’re not on TV, but on the Social Networks we inhabit. Oh wait, yeah, there’s YouTube and the scores of silly videos we upload, right?
(By the way, studies in the US found out that Social Media can make us envious of our friends and less satisfied with our own lives.)
At some point, I was also caught up in the craziness of Facebook. I posted about the Pinakbet I’m eating, the places I’m going to, plus the occasional complaints about utilities and other services. But when the novelty wore off, I found myself reverting back to normal and hesitation to post about my personal life set in.
Like my friend Kath, I’ve contemplated turning off my Facebook account. But it’s such an effective means of communication for my ministries that I simply couldn’t do that and remain effective in my ministries. Since my Facebook account is also an extension of my blog and my ministries, I often post a lot of things–articles I pick from blogs and websites, photos I encounter, anime, plus some thought-provoking posts related to my faith and my ministries.
I think I may have posted too much of these things that when I posted my reactions to the PBA Championship Series between Ginebra vs. Alaska, an online friend was so surprised she called me out on it!
I’m pretty good at posting interesting stuff (interesting to me, at least). But personal stuff?
Nope. I struggle in posting details of my life online on Facebook and even in my blog.
You see, when I was a kid, I was in a fishbowl. People, especially Church people, were always looking at my behavior and would readily exclaim “Anak ka pa naman ng Pastor!” even with the flimsiest of reasons (such as not attending Sunday School, or leading the playful and rowdy group of kids outside the church).
Everyone, or at least everyone at church and school, seems to have definite expectations of who I was supposed to be–not the ‘ordinary’ kid who can be playful and unruly at times but THE Methodist Pastor’s kid, who SHOULD behave like he has halo over his head, and angel wings on his back.
So, over time, I’ve learned to guard myself in the midst of Christians, especially among Christians. I’ve learned to separate my public and my private life. Meanwhile, constantly wondering if my behavior is socially acceptable. I’m sure plenty of Pastors’ Kids could relate to that.
I’ve become more mature, as a person, as a Pastor’s Kid, and as a Christian through the years. I now look back and smile at the struggles I used to have. I’m a youth worker in the United Methodist Church and I work with amazing young leaders. But some traces of my guardedness have survived, probably more than I care to admit.
Why do I bring up all of these things?
Because with Social Media, the blur between our public and private lives is being erased. Youth and adults, both, post details of their lives online. If I were a stalker, all I need to do would be to watch the Timeline of an online friend and I can know his or her favorite hangouts, brands of clothes or bags, restaurants, books, and movies. And yeah, sometimes, I can also predict where my friend will be tomorrow, and the evening after that.
But don’t worry, I’m not that kind of an online friend. Still, you should take online safety seriously!
But here’s another thing. It has also become difficult for us to hide some of our “liberal habits.” Christian young people post pics of them with a bottle of beer in a bar somewhere, or with the cigarette on hand. You could even include PDA (public display of affection) right there. These pics could raise your Sunday School teacher’s eyebrows to the roof!
(Just a quick disclaimer, I know that for some Christian groups, drinking and smoking are not that big of an issue. But for some, it is. This post is long already, so let’s deal with that some other time, kay?)
Which leads me to the question of authenticity.
The way we use the Web and Social Media is still pretty personal. We just do what we want, sometimes forgetting that Social Media is a VERY public place! And that whatever you post there could be seen by the friends of the friends of your online friends. I once asked a Pastor to take down a post on his wall suggesting that he has recently watched a sexy video a few minutes ago.
We forget that we also have an online testimony to protect. Bloggers and other New Media marketers often speak of “online branding.” From that perspective, let me ask you this question: “Are you protecting your brand as a Christian online?”
Please take a quick look at your Facebook profile. If viewed from the eyes of somebody who’s not Christian (or at least not an active Christian), would they be able to notice that you’re a Christian?
Are we authentic?
According to Merriam-Webster.com, authenticity means: not false or imitation; real or actual; true to one’s own personality, spirit or character.
Are we true to character? Are we the same person online and offline? In other words, is our private-offline life in sync with our public-online life? Or do we simply present a “Christian” image online?
It’s so easy to fall into either extremes.
One is to post nothing but Christian stuff. A Bible verse a day, a Christian quote, an image with inspiring message from God, and all sorts of Christian shirts, books, theologies, etc. The problem with this it presents an unrealistic persona–somebody who cares ONLY about ‘spiritual’ life and may be seen as detached from this world.
On the other hand, the other extreme is to post nothing at all about one’s faith, and live a kind of ‘undercover Christian life’ online. Post whatever you want; live however you feel like.
But maybe, here’s something better. With all these Social Media sites available, why don’t we tell the stories of our lives. That’s as authentic as we could be. And if God matters in your story, it will show. Will that rule out all the mistakes, the party, the negative, dark side of you, and whatever that makes us all-too-human?
Nope. But that’s the way with authenticity, we’re not showing the Photoshopped version of our lives. Rather, we show what’s real while at the same time aspiring to that which God called us to.
Which leads me to what this post is all about.
For our message to connect online. We have to be authentic. We need to get personal–deeply personal, even. Because as my friend Rei always quotes: “the most personal is the most universal.” (Carl Rogers, On Becoming a Person)
I haven’t written much about what is deeply personal to me. And some of it may or may not surprise (or shock) people but I’m taking my cue from Donald Miller, one of my favorite authors:
“We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us that life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story.”
This is my blog. And I’ll be telling stories–my story and that of the people whose lives I touch briefly.
And from here on, you’ll read more of what I am, what I think, yeah, and what I eat, too. But don’t worry, I’ll still blog about Social Media, Youth Work, and other stuff, but I’m taking it personal.
You’ve been warned. 🙂