Last year, Tony Reinke interviewed me while working on his forthcoming book, which reflects on the subject of the smartphone and the wise use of it from a Christian perspective. The first half of the interview was published on Desiring God last February, but the full interview has only just been posted over on Tony’s blog. Here’s the beginning of the second half of the interview:
So, our digital profile is plastic and malleable — we can edit and project ourselves as we please. Our physical profile exists in a much more fixed state — we are largely the product of biological factors we cannot control. For most people, do you think social media is an attempt to disguise our physical limitations, or a way to express the sort of control we wish we had over our physical selves?
I don’t think that most people are alert to the ways in which their profile in various social media has come to shape the way that they relate to themselves. I don’t think that our use of social media is initially an attempt to gain control over ourselves. It does tend to become such an attempt very quickly, though, simply through the sort of reflexivity of self-understanding that the habitual practice of self-representation encourages. In an earlier response, I remarked upon the manner in which the Internet functions as a spectacle and that this spectacle mediates our relationships, not merely with others, but also with ourselves. The projected representation of ourselves within this shared spectacle can be a means of vicarious or idealized self-realization. This occurs as my personal sense of self becomes increasingly dependent upon and represented in the ‘self’ that is represented in my Facebook profile, Instagram account, Twitter feed, Tumblr, and other such media.
The advent of social media and mobile connected devices is, in certain respects, a development akin to the movement from a world without any clear mirrors to one where highly reflective surfaces are ubiquitous. Just as the physical mirror image powerfully mediates my sense of my bodily self, the virtual mirror of social media now powerfully mediates my sense of who I am as a relational and social being. If the physical mirror feeds many anxieties and obsessions with our bodily appearance, the mirror of social media has a similar effect for our sense of our selves within our communities and society more broadly.
Read the whole piece here.