I’ve been thinking about our digital selves. The good, the bad, the ugly, the unedited. Our digital self is the version of us that we present online.
I am as of this writing a 32 years old that has been online in some form for 18 years. I remember the world before the Net. I remember when saying WWW was cool and novel. I remember my first dial-up modem. It was a 14.4 K modem. I also remember a time before our digital footprints existed. Yet, those days are gone as long as current culture exists.
If you watched the movie the Social Network, you may remember the following line between the fictional Zuckerburg and the fictional Erica Albright. Albright is a fictional recreation of a now unidentifiable ex-girlfriend.
It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever, it would be a crime for it not to be shared. The internet is not written in pencil, Mark, it’s written in ink and you published that Erica Albright was a bitch. Right before you made some ignorant crack about my family’s name, my bra size and rated women based on their hotness.
Mark Zuckerburg will always be remembered as the founder of Facebook. A site that has helped change the world. Yet, he will also be known as the petty guy that called his ex-girlfriend a crude name after getting dumped.
There is irony in that her identity is lost but not his response to how he viewed her at the time. Some digital moments, out of our control define us.
Zuckerburg can not go back and edit that part of his digital life. It paints part of a picture, right or wrong, of who he is or at least was. It shapes how people think about him. The biopic the Social Network was mostly unflattering. What does our digital profile say about us and how the world will see us?
This takes on more meaning for those of us in ministry.
A ministry guy that I had once hoped to get to know recently wrote a inflammatory blog post about sex. Let me be clear I probably will never get to know this guy not because of that article but because he’s famous, and I’m not. I wonder about his lasting legacy. Will this be a forgotten blip or a defining moment? It is to soon to tell but either way I bet he would not publish it again.
He deleted it. In a sense the problem is in one way solved but not in another and more damaging way. His words like Zuckerburg have gone viral. His first introduction to many people will be that article in a redacted, spliced, and dissected way on countless blogs. His general humility and humor will not be seen by many. That one blogpost will define him to many.
Why do we say what we say? In part because “our heart is wicked. Who can know it”(1). If we are honest we don’t really know ourselves very well. We like to use shocking words. We like to have the intention on us. Our motive may seem right but that does not mean that it is. Nor does it mean that we should just write whatever is on heart without some serious time of reflection.
We must learn to be wise with our digital identity because it is part of our real identity. “The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” (2) I hope that my digital self ultimately will prove these words to be true. Regardless, we need to be steadfast in how we present our digital selves in a digital world. It is watching us.
We must be winsome when it is time to be winsome. Prophetic when it is time to be prophetic. Angry where appropriate but always do all things in love. For God so loved the world, even the digital world, that he sent his Son to redeem it. We should strive to be part of that even with our digital selves.
Prayer: God, shape my heart to reflect your glory even in my digital life. Save me from my enemies including my sinful desires, lead me not in to temptation, help me to forgive others, and give me a heart to write and present you in all things. Amen.
(1). Jeremiah 17:9
(2). Proverbs 16:21