Identity in the age of Facebook

A Christian Science perspective on daily life

It's getting trickier to figure out who we really are. Or maybe that's always been a challenge. But today it's even more complicated because we can be one person in daily life and another online.

The Internet allows individuals access to a broader range of experiences. Someone who never leaves home can suddenly build up a long list of "friends" and have access to up-to-the-second information about what those people are doing.

On sites like Facebook or MySpace, participants create profiles that tell about themselves. This opens the door for all kinds of communication, much of it valuable and fun. But the rise of online profiles also brings up an interesting question. With the opportunity to present so many different personas, is there a danger of forgetting who we truly are? Could our real identity slip away?

Not for anyone who understands that in reality we are God's spiritual ideas and that our identity comes to us from Him. Since we have always coexisted with our Creator, our identity has been, and will always be, perfect and good. And nothing will ever change that.

Our identity is the sum total of all the wonderful spiritual qualities that we uniquely embody. It's the kindness, industry, charity, humor, and so on, that we each include in our reflection of God's infinite goodness. This identity, like God, is permanent and unchanging.

Of course, our interests, styles, and activities shift as we move forward in life. Things would be pretty dull if we stayed the same all the time. New insights and balanced growth offer spontaneity and renewal, and bring the opportunity to learn more about God and who we actually are.

But even if we change outwardly, the essence of who we are remains constant and good. This is a huge comfort because it means that we can never actually stray from God's presence. The spiritual identity our Creator has given each of us remains intact, and this will act as a compass through our life journey. As the Bible says, "For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).

To find out more about what this being is, we can look to Jesus' example. He knew better than anyone what it meant to belong to God. The record of Jesus' words and actions – called the Gospel – reveals a life totally in accord with God. At each turn, Jesus knew that his own security wasn't found in the circumstances that surrounded him but in the presence of God. This allowed him to help and heal others and to set an example that many strive to emulate today.

Describing our relation to God, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "God is the creator of man, and, the divine Principle of man remaining perfect, the divine idea or reflection, man, remains perfect. Man is the expression of God's being" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 470).

Now, we might not put all this up on our online profile. Or, on the other hand, we might use our profile as a way to generate discussion about things spiritual. Either way, it's not so much what we say about ourselves as what we do that matters.

If you endeavor to present yourself with integrity in all areas of life, then those who are looking to see the truth will discover what and who you really are. Your true identity can't be hidden when you're making your best effort to sincerely share the spiritual qualities that God has given you.

And if you seem to get sidetracked for a while, it doesn't change the fact that you are still God's creation and that your Parent's door is always open. Again, the key is sincerity. Any true effort at reformation will always be supported by the One who loves us most.

Even with all the options technology offers to present ourselves to the world, it's what we are spiritually that counts. Our only true identity is the one God gave us. That's what stays with us forever.

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