Over the last several years there has been the ever increasing gap between who we are in person and who we are online. It’s a dangerous predicament and it is illustrated no where more clearly than in the lives of teenagers. I work with the youth at my church and I absolutely love our students. They are funny, smart, fun and just great kids… but when I get home and log onto Facebook I wonder “are these the same students I just saw two hours ago?” Some of the things they say and some of the pictures they post make me wonder if they are aware of who is able to see their feeds.
Kids will be kids, and teens will be teens, so, crazy and ill advised behavior along with coarse language is nothing new. I remember some of the stupid things I said and did. However, I think there is an entire new social understanding that stems from our heavy use of Facebook, social media and text messaging: “who I am through the digital airwaves isn’t who I am in person. What I do in the digital world doesn’t define who I am in the real world.”
The reports of companies creeping on their employees and actually making staffing decisions based upon a users online identity are on the rise. School teachers who post drunken pictures or images of them in sexually promiscuous situations are being fired because their superiors got wind of their profiles. The inability of individuals to put together that online life and face to face life are one in the same is very scary.
Teenagers, specifically, are more prone to say extreme things on Facebook than they would ever consider saying in front of someone. Though they might use extreme language online, rarely do those same words make their way out at the dinner table. The ability for a teenager to filter their comments and determine how a particular statement might be perceived seems to be on the decline as well.
The Call For Leadership
Leaders, we have a valuable role to play in attacking this trend head on. We must make a commitment first and foremost to not find ourselves trapped in this paradigm ourselves. It is paramount that our identities be founded in something bigger than ourselves. I find my identity in my role as a follower of Jesus. It grounds me.
In addition, we have a responsibility to the younger generations to not only be a good example but to offer our lives as a sounding board as they process who they are becoming. Listening is huge. Put yourself in the way of a young person so that they have no choice but to be influenced by you and share their life with you. A simple friendship they know they can trust can be more powerful than we realize.
What Do You Think?
So what do you think? Are people living two separate lives? Do you think it’s even an issue worth discussing? Do we as church communicators have a responsibility to address such issues and educate the people in our church, especially youth?
Please do share.