Curating Ourselves to Death?

Have we all become curators? You know who they are—directors at museums who skillfully arrange the contents of the gallery to be as attractive and appealing as possible to visitors. Curators decide what eye-catching exhibit gets prominent display, and which collections with less pizzazz need to be pushed to the back. Do we do the same?

Consider Walt Mueller’s critique of this generation’s identity-formation: “. . . for digital natives living out their lives in the online world, the identity options from which to choose are virtually limitless. [People] are able to perform through a growing multitude of social media sites by choosing the words they post (true and false), and by posing and photo-shopping themselves into images that don’t come close to who they really are. As media critic Quentin Schultze has observed, ‘The digital world suffocates virtue by allowing us unbridled freedom to be all things to all people . . . to give ourselves over to the highest bidder or to the most persuasive master’” (YouthWorker Journal Jan/Feb 2015 pp 16-17).

And as a consequence we have a generation of youth and adults who are curating ourselves to death. Mueller goes on: “. . . we constantly are revising and tweaking the exhibit known as me. In effect, we do whatever it takes, including sacrificing our true identities and selves, to capture the gaze of the crowd. . . . We carefully choose our clothing, words, photos, the food we eat, the places we go, how we spend our time—virtually everything in an attempt to style ourselves in the best way possible” (17).

Turns out “virtual reality” is more virtual than perhaps we first thought. A friend gave me Michael Horton’s newest book, or-di-nar-y: Sustainable faith in a radical, restless world. Horton quotes psychiatrist Keith Ablow, who on the basis of recent studies warns of “‘the toxic psychological impact of media and technology on children, adolescents and young adults, particularly as it regards turning them into faux [false] celebrities—the equivalent of lead actors in their own fictionalized life stories. . . . On Facebook, young [and not so young] people can fool themselves into thinking they have hundreds or thousands of “friends.” They can delete unflattering comments. They can block anyone who disagrees with them or pokes holes in their inflated self-esteem. . . . Using Twitter, young [and not so young] people can pretend they are worth “following,” as though they have real-life fans, when all that is really happening is the mutual fanning of false love and false fame’” (60).

Are we curating ourselves to death? Consider Jesus’ New Year invitation: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Tired of playing this silly game? Weary of propping yourself up into someone else’s wannabe that isn’t even the you God uniquely has chosen you to be? Who says social culture or online community (which is a very lonely community anyway) has the right to dictate your self-worth, let alone your self-image?

Want to know what the “nearest and dearest” Friend you’ll ever have thinks of you? “The relations between God and each soul are as distinct and full as though there were not another soul upon the earth to share His watchcare, not another soul for whom He gave His beloved Son” (Steps to Christ 100). As far as He’s concerned, it’s as if it were only you and God in this universe. Talking about infinite worth! Just you and God—that’s how much He loves you. So why not drop the curating this New Year and pick up the communicating, this “talking to God as to a friend” (96)? Begin your day alone with Him, and I promise you you’ll never have to curate your museum again. You’re too attractive just the way He made you.

Happy New Year indeed!