Someone once told me that all social media is ultimately self-promotion. He’s not wrong. We put the best of ourselves out there for others to compare with the worst of themselves. We cast our votes on everything from politics to parenting, giving a “thumbs up” or a “star” to the things worthy of our approval. We mercilessly share opinions, jokes, recipes, baby pictures, and funny videos, reasoning to ourselves that others have the voluntary choice to walk away from our barrage at any point. And they do have the choice to walk away. We all have the choice to unplug, unsubscribe, and unfollow. But we crave connectivity, and the internet is convenient.
In the “olden days” if one wanted to be famous, he or she had to be filmed, photographed, recorded, or published. Platforms of influence were built on stages, screens, and front pages. Fame came to those society deemed worthy of attention, and everyone else built social networks in churches, town halls, and family get-togethers.
Today, one can become famous by tripping down the stairs, as long as someone has a smart phone handy. YouTube, internet news outlets, and social media have made the uncommon utterly commonplace. Clicks are generated by sensational tag lines and search engine optimization strategies. We’re all more famous than we need to be. Complete strangers have access to my opinions on baby-led weaning and America’s foreign policy toward Israel. Not that they were asking.
I’m not saying the internet’s a bad thing. I’m sure some of us could use a little time away from our smart phones, but I have a feeling social media isn’t going anywhere, so it will be difficult to ignore completely. Even if Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter wane, they will most definitely be replaced by the latest and greatest. My concern is for my own personal responsibility in the face of these tides and trends. As a Christian, wife, mother, daughter, and friend, what should be my response to this overwhelming personal fame? (Not that I am famous by any modern-day metric, just that I have like 500 friends on Facebook which, if I think about it, would be a completely overwhelming number of people if they all gathered in one room to hear me speak about the last parenting article I read.)
In reality, our online presences are simply accelerated, amplified versions of our face-to-face presences. Social media amplified our tendencies to compare and form judgments, but it didn’t cause those tendencies. We all engage in self promotion in our public lives. We wear certain clothes, style our hair, and put on makeup. We drive certain cars, keep our lawns cut, paint our houses, and plant flowers. We put forward a certain face toward strangers and colleagues. We speak a certain way, withhold and share information strategically, communicate non-verbally, flirt, and crack jokes. This is social interaction. Those who miss the subtleties of this art form struggle to make friends and form meaningful relationships. Our online presences are no different . We just have more opportunity to pick and choose which aspects of ourselves to highlight, and we have a much larger audience.
As Christians, we carry the understanding that our public lives (and private lives, for that matter) are a reflection of a higher Name, so we strive to make our interactions count toward a greater Kingdom purpose. If our online presences are amplified versions of our face-to-face presences, isn’t our obligation online the same? Instead of shrinking into the shadows or boycotting the internet all together, what if we optimized our online platform for what it is – an amplified version of our face-to-face presences?
I want to be a writer. I feel like God has put it in my heart to author books of all kinds. I read, though, that publishers are looking for authors with an existing “fan base.” (Though I prefer the word “platform.”) Those most likely to have their manuscripts see the light of day typically run successful blogs and carry a heavy online presence. As one who has sought to “leave no trace,” this feels like an overwhelming task. I have dabbled with a half-dozen blogs, but never had the energy to sustain them. After thinking and praying about this, I’ve discovered that I have been trying too hard. All of those blogs were built around a concept or idea. They weren’t me, so they took massive amounts of energy and creativity to maintain.
Enter a new strategy: shameless self-promotion, but in the interest of eventually making a positive Kingdom impact. I can only do so much – my existing platform is only so big – but if a book is meant to be, He will bring the audience. In the meantime, I shall be busy being myself.
If you find yourself a fan, do share. 😉
(Well, once I post some content…)
Until then, then.