I like titles that contain alliteration. It makes me happy!
That aside, I have been thinking over the past month or so since I wrote ‘hopeful depression’ about the nature of character and the power of diversity in communicating our character.
I know this is an often discussed topic, and I claim no expertise or particular intelligence. Just pondering on a few thoughts that have been popping in and out of my head.
I have been nervous of writing another blog. I question my ability to ever be as interesting or influential as I feel I ought to be. I feel this way because in the month since speaking out about my depression I have been called brave, courageous, influential and have been heaped with praise I am not entirely sure I deserve. I write what I think about and what I care about. I care about the stigma around depression, I find it exhausting but my thoughts are often mundane and boring. For example, I did a lot of baking this weekend and would have blogged about it but thought it might not meet what was expected of me.
I am aware no one else is putting such expectations on me, and I got to wondering why I do!
I think, and these are thoughts alone, that I feel constricted by the weight of what my character should be, within my blog, because of what it has been. I know that’s a sentence that probably shouldn’t be said again, but basically, I started the blog with the most serious of topics occupying my brain. I now feel that I need to follow this with equally serious topics, probably still around the topic of depression, but I need to keep it light. I am trying to ensure that I present the right character to the world. Problem is, I am not sure I know what that character is!
Here we arrive at my alliteration happy title. Complicating character. How much does our online character complicate our offline character? How much do we feel, having edited ourselves to the nth degree online, about our characters offline?
We often write in ideals, I write of grace and communication and reconciliation, and yet I am rarely graceful, I do communicate but not always in a reconciliatory tone! So, when people meet me, what can they expect?
I am passionate about community and write about it a lot, but I am currently so worn out and tired I am barely maintaining the community I am already part of, let alone drawing new people in. Does this make me a liar?
How do we understand our character when so often what we present to the world is our slightly idealised version of ourselves? I love social media, and through it have developed some relationships which I treasure. I enjoy seeing more of the world through the eyes of those around me. I like being able to develop relationships with people all over the world.
I am also more suspicious online, I find it a toxic and frightening space. My ability to judge the character of those I meet could be called into question, I tend to trust people’s word. Online however I am the opposite, I question everybody’s motive, and am reluctant to trust anyone. People seem to feel that they can say things to people they would rarely dare say to their face, it is mean and aggressive and can bring a more instant reaction out of anyone.
So does this mean that our online persona is more honest and more idealised? Or more fearless?
Whatever social media does, it certainly makes understanding my own character a more complicated process. When these questions are bought into the remit of the theology of social media in a church context we are entering a whole new realm of confusion. I therefore will stop my pondering and musings here. Congratulations if you have made it to the end. If you have any clues on who I might be off the back of this, you are doing better than me!