The Book of Faces: Projections of Ourselves
Facebook is far and away the leading social networking site in the world. It is a useful tool for connecting with family and friends. I will say at the outset that this post is not intended to bash Facebook, to guilt Facebookers, or to over-spiritualize a social networking site, but merely to think about Facebook with you. So, here we go. To begin, I’m going make the assertion that Facebook allows us to project ourselves in a certain way, but that projection is a distinctly different thing than the real us. First, I’m going to back up my thesis, and then I’d like to consider a few implications of it.
The first reason I think that my thesis is true is that if you compare what you post on Facebook to what happens in your life from moment to moment, you’re probably going to see a difference. I do. I would attribute that to many things. In part, I care about my public image too much. I want people to like me too much. Therefore, I post on Facebook sometimes for those reasons. I’ll admit it. I don’t want my Facebook friends to know everything about me.. only the good parts. Been there?
In addition, Facebook just cannot capture life all that well, despite the way it is marketed as being so great at doing so. Funny moments are not as funny, sad moments are not as sad, beautiful scenes are not as beautiful, when they are communicated to other people through a screen. At its best, Facebook is a shadow of the goodness of real life. It’s a collection of life snapshots, but it’s not the real thing.
The second point in support of my thesis is that Facebook constantly reinforces in us the habit of thinking of our projected self as our real self. For example, when you write a comment on Facebook, you’ll see your own name next to your comment. What you’re looking at is your projected self. Pretty soon, your projected self begins to take on new life because you, your real self, are constantly observing your projection as if it has a life of its own. As your projection creates statuses, writes comments, likes content, and does all sorts of other things on Facebook, you are looking on as if you’re a totally different person watching a stranger live a different life. In fact, sometimes your projected self does things on Facebook that your real self would never do. But it feels safe somehow, because it’s not really you.. only your projection. Deep inside, you know that.
There are other proofs of my thesis which I am purposefully avoiding for lack of time and space. Perhaps you can think of some.
Here’s the question. Do you and I care more about our projected self than our real self? It’s a question concerning not just social media, but life in general. Openness versus hiddenness. Do people see the real us, or only our projection? The truth is, God is not fooled. But others can be.
I wonder if sometimes we focus so much on our projected self that we forget to take care of our real self. I wonder if we put more time and energy into the image people will see, but not the real person behind the image. And over time, in our negligence, I think that the disparity between how we appear to others and how we truly are will grow. In part, that will be because we’re so ashamed of who we’ve become that we’ll increasingly try to cover it up with our own self-projection. And, in part, that will be because as we forget who we actually are, our real self will truly fade.
Facebook is a tool. It is not sinful. We simply need to think about it Biblically and logically. Then it can be very useful.
“God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin, so that in Jesus, we might become the righteousness of God.” That’s 2 Corinthians 5:21. That’s who you are, believer. That’s who I am. We don’t define ourselves. God defines us. His righteousness defines us. We don’t have to hide behind a projection of ourselves when we can claim Jesus Christ as our very own definition. The gospel allows us to put away our pride and rest in what God has made us.. the very righteousness of Christ.