People have always been good at putting on masks and personas to project a certain image to others. There is nothing new about being “two-faced,” as we called it in my generation.
Nevertheless, one disturbing aspect of social media is its ability to create personas that are inherently removed from both those who create and those who observe them. We no longer need to be two-faced when we can be multi-faced, presenting a seemingly endless number of facades to the world around us.
If I’m young and don’t want my parents to see the “real” profile I have on Instagram or Facebook, for example, it’s easy to create alternative accounts and post a few wholesome pictures every now and then, giving them the impression that I’m actually living a somewhat normal and ostensibly moral life.
One of the great challenges of committed Christian discipleship is living a consistent, reliable, and integrated life. We should be the same in private as we are in public, and the “face” we show strangers and neighbors should be the same “face” we show ourselves, our family, and our friends. There should be no “skeletons in the closet,” no secrets to remember not to tell, and no multiple and disingenuous personalities portrayed on various social media platforms either.
I fear that if it goes on too long, some will no longer be able to appreciate or understand the importance of being an integrated and consistent person—someone who is the same in public and in private. Having a set of personalities to create and maintain will begin to seem somehow normal and healthy rather than socially disingenuous, distracting, and debilitating.
In addition, some could lose a true sense of self. If we are too apt to present and promote various personas to the world, we may end up becoming increasingly ignorant of who we really are. Aristotle was clear about the need to “know thyself.” Failure to do so means a failure to flourish in the world as God intended and made us to be and become.
Because of sin, we are already prone to living dissipated and dis-integrated lives, cut off from the One who makes us unified and whole again. Social media merely makes the opportunities to create and promote alternative versions of ourselves easier and more ubiquitous.
Lord Jesus, save us from ourselves that we might better know and be ourselves through our ever-increasing knowledge of the One who made and truly loves us.