Monday, September 26, 2011

Declaring Bankruptcy

I was reading an article in the New York Times recently, about how etiquette is changing due to the convergence of the real / virtual worlds. It was all very profound, and yet, at the same time, nothing new.  We’ve been dealing with this issue from the day we started carrying around telecommunications bricks to the inception of lolspeak (not to mention it’s great-grandfather pager code). So, in a sense, it’s nothing new.  Perhaps as digital devices are becoming smarter, more intuitive and more ubiquitous, the “problem” is coming to a head.  That is, if you consider it a problem.  Some don’t.  Some merely see it as an awkward evolutionary stage marking our transition from digital childhood into adolescence.  Eventually, they say, we will learn how to function better, more efficiently, politely and with more maturity as we grow and develop in conjunction with our tech.  
However, there was one thing that really stuck out to me in the article.  The writer was talking about our need to manicure our online representations and said 
there is…a specific kind of narcissism that the social Web engenders. By grooming and updating your various avatars, you are making sure you remain at the popular kid’s table. One of the more seductive data points in real-time media is what people think of you. The metrics of followers and retweets beget a kind of always-on day trading in the unstable currency of the self.
What really stuck out to me was the last phrase, “the currency of self”.
I started thinking about it’s worth and reliability…and there is very little.  The problem is, it’s a bad investment.   
There is no gold-standard.  There is nothing putting a roof on inflation, nor is there anything preventing its worth from plummeting.  
Investing in the stock of self is a big gamble.  
Now, I could end it there, and let you mull it over for yourself.  If you prefer that type of blog, go back, read the last sentence, click the little 1+ at the end of the post and go about your business.  
If you’re like me, however, you’d like to try and internalize this a little more.  
So, here it is.
I do this.  
You probably do this.  
We invest in ourselves and in the selves of others.  We rate ourselves and others, based on what we listen to, who we read, what we wear, how cool our blog layout is, whether we’re on Tumblr, Blogger or Wordpress (does anyone still use LiveJournal?).  We edit, tweak, fret over and promote our online representations, because we believe them to be just that: representations.  If my profile picture is cool, I’m cool.  If my blog layout is trendy and artistic, so am I.  If I retweet Charlie Sheen, then I’m current, relevant and in the know (is he still cool, this week?).  
We do it in the church, too.  
We build our sermons, services and websites to be cool, inviting and relevant.  I don’t know that there is anything inherently wrong with this, but it makes me want to ask a question:
Who are we trying to promote?  
The Church is the body of Christ.  It is [supposed to be] His earthly representation, to a lost and dying world.  Often, however, it seems to promote itself, its pastor, its program, its doctrines, its agenda… sometimes the Church doesn’t seem to promote Jesus.  
To turn in inward again, sometimes I don’t promote Jesus.  
I am a Christian: ‘little Christ’.  
However, sometimes, it seems, I am more worried about my image than His.  
I think I need to remember that I am “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! and that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.
At the risk of sounding cheesy (see I’m worried about your perception of me again), He is the only reliable currency worth investing in.  His is the only image worth promoting.  I should strive to follow Him only.  
So, here I am, declaring bankruptcy. Without Him, I am worthless.  I am nothing. 
Does this mean that I’m going to go and delete my Facebook account? 
Perhaps, but just in case, you can find me on Twitter (@jtramme11).
I have a really cool profile picture.

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