Taking a break from curating an identity

I’ve just started reading for what should be the final semester of my degree. I’ve been reading Melbourne pastor Nathan Hedt’s article ‘Missional Spirituality among Digital Natives: Technology, Spirituality and Mission in an Age of Social Media’, which was published in Lutheran Theological Journal in 2013. Among other things Nathan talks about is our ability to reflect on how social media shapes our behaviour. It is hard for us to reflect on how our behaviour is being shaped when we are totally immersed in social media. Because of this Nathan suggests that we take regular breaks (digital fasts or social sabbaths) from social media and from digital screens in general. I’ve done this a number of times by closing down my Facebook account for periods of time and/or deleting the social apps from my phone. I’ve found this makes it easier to concentrate, and I’ve decided to take another break as of today, by deleting my social apps for a time. This means that I can only be posting or browsing my news feed when I’m sitting at a computer – unless I use the browser on my phone, which is a bit of a hassle.

At Surrender’s Melbourne conference last year a large number of us participated in a space where we shared about how we’d participated in Christian celebrity culture and how we’d been effected by it. One of the things some of us talked about was feeling the need to curate an online identity that looks like some kind of Christian social justice superhero. Some of us have felt like we’ve had to do that in order to create value for the agencies we’ve worked for or in order to get speaking gigs. Sometimes it’s made us suspicious of each other because we’ve seen each other as competitors in these silly games. I think there are a lot of things we can do to resist this kind of temptation, but I’ve found that one helps is making social media less easily accessed. At different times I’ve felt a need to be constantly thinking about things I could post to help curate the desired persona and at times like that it has been a relief to be able to delete those social apps. Making social media less accessible also slows down the process of posting something, giving more opportunity to discern the value of posting.

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