Autumn Blogging Project: Embracing Obscurity

Hello, Melissa.

We were in a shop at Disney World. I was eight and I'd never seen this man behind the counter before. How did he know my name? I was not young enough to think it was magic; I thought it was creepy. I knew I wasn't in any real danger. After all, my parents were beside me. In fact, when I demanded to know how he could call me by name, they erupted in laughter. I didn't understand. This was not funny. I was on the verge of tears.

When Mama realized how upset I was, she prompted me to look down. The day had been so full that I'd forgotten my name was embroidered across the top of my peach-colored shirt. As we left the shop I feigned laughter at my own silliness, but deep down I was unsettled.

The world has changed considerably since 1976. Our names are emblazoned on practically everything, our pictures online for the entire world to see. Far from being creeped out when strangers call us by name, we have made them privy to our innermost thoughts. We live our lives in public, calling attention to ourselves at every turn.

As I continue to ponder a quiet life, I've been thinking about how an increasingly narcissistic society encourages me to exchange God's glory for my own. The quest for celebrity and importance - the lure of being somebody - has undeniably shaped how I've conducted myself online.

There's also been the trickle-down effect on my relationships. I've become so accustomed to consuming information about family and friends as news in a Facebook or Twitter feed that I have devalued the importance of oral communication. I've told myself that social media and texting are an acceptable and more efficient use of time, as opposed to genuine conversation. But the truth is that life is far less messy when reduced to pixels and text messages. It's much easier to tell someone I'm praying for her or offer birthday wishes on Facebook than it is to pick up the phone or send a card. And using social media has the added bonus of making my concern and love public, thereby encouraging others to think highly of me regardless of whether they actually know me.

I have fallen into a dangerous trap and I need to escape. No more relying on social media to know what's going on with my family and friends. No more employing it as the main source of information about my own life. If a friend wants to know what I'm having for dinner, where I've been (and with whom), or what's going on my family's life, they won't find out via Facebook. I am purposefully going to live less publicly, to stop being a voyeur and start being a participant in the lives of those closest to me, and to have more meaningful - even messy -  relationships. I want my life to publicize the holy, righteous, and perfect God; not the sinful, self-righteous, and imperfect me.

It will be an ongoing battle, perhaps a never-ending process. I have to start somewhere, so I've decided to begin blogging through Embracing Obscurity: Becoming Nothing in Light of God's Everything. I pray I can learn to put into practice what the title of the book suggests.

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