WE need to learn to properly deal with the digital world. It offers us new situations and new challenges that we have to cope with. Among them is how to maintain and even enhance our identity, and not to lose or distort it.
Many people are telling me of the new predicaments they find themselves in with the Facebook, for example. They echo more or less my own experiences. There´s always the tendency to spend a lot of time there such that you forget other tasks and duties. There are several other side-effects, many of them not good.
That´s because these new technologies extend our reach and coverage in heretofore untold levels. They offer a lot of conveniences, but they also come with a high cost, especially on our spiritual life, and even our psychological life.
For example, I can see that, especially among the young, their insecurities and other youthful anomalies get to be displayed there to a much higher degree than before. They may appear formal and proper to you in person, but they become a different persona on Facebook. You´d be confused as to which one is the real person.
That is why, I deeply believe that the new digital universe is challenging us to tackle the question of our personal identity. Who are we really? How can we maintain and strengthen our identity as we cruise the exhilarating world of cyberspace?
This challenge is actually not new, but it is made more urgent with the new situations these new technologies create. It now has more serious implications. Would we just be contented with having multiple identities, hiding ourselves behind different masks, assuming different egos by creating different avatars for ourselves?
While it´s true that that the Gospel encourages us to be all things to all men, that is, to have some multiple personas for different situations, we need to remind ourselves that we should have an integrating and stabilizing principle to do this. Could we just assume different identities for any reason at all—convenience, practicality, popularity, etc.?
We cannot deny that this phenomenon is setting us up for an avalanche of future confusion and its ilk—deception, hypocrisy—that can contribute to the weakening of social stability and unity, and of our relation with God. With it, we reinforce our tendency to create our own world, detached from God and from others.
We need to strengthen our sense of identity, rooting it on the objective and ultimate truth about ourselves, as we enter into the digital world of infinite possibilities. Otherwise, we would get lost.
In that passage of St. Paul about our being all things to all men, that is to say, that we need to adapt ourselves to different situations even to the point of varying our character and temperament if possible, the reason and the efficient cause for achieving it is given.
“I became all things to all men that I might save all,” St. Paul says (1 Cor 9.22) “I do all things for the gospel’s sake, that I may share in its blessings.”
The reason is religious, the ultimate domain of our being where the origin and purpose of our nature are found. Perhaps, this is the truth that needs to be spread around more widely. Many of us are still at sea or non-committal about this aspect of our life.
We tend to get contented only with the here and now, the purely tangible, sensible and intelligible dimensions of our existence. Though we are capable of going beyond these levels, we get satisfied with the material or natural world. We tend to avoid the spiritual and the supernatural world.
But the pull of God cannot be denied. Even if people subjectively deny it, the reality of things always points out to the fact that we are drawn toward him. God is “the alpha and the omega,” the beginning and end of things. We need to flow with this objective reality.
Unless we have this truth clear in our mind and start to conform ourselves to that reality, unless we go beyond playing the human and natural games of politics, economics, entertainment, etc., there’s no alternative but to get lost in the much trickier world of the Internet.
And so, to keep our proper identity intact, and even to enhance it as we take advantage of the many possibilities of cyberspace, we have to see to it that our virtual ego is properly grounded and skilled to cruise the treacherous waters of the Facebook, for example.