Personal Branding as Identity

“My generation does not have conversations. Instead we broadcast.”

                                                                           25 Year old female.

Before I got into ministry I studied advertising, and I have quite a few friends who have studied advertising, marketing and public relations. There are certain tricks and skills that you learn in such a field in order to create publicity for a product or service that you are promoting.

I find it fascinating that the average young adult, or young person today is skilled in public relations. The word of advertising and marketing has deeply shaped how we relate to each other socially, websites like facebook and myspace operate like personal public relations firms. Identity formation now looks more like brand development.

I often meet people today who I have not seen for a while and don’t need to ask them about how they are going because their ‘status’ on facebook informs me, and I have already seen their photos online from their last party. Technology almost makes our catching up redundant.

The problem is that humans in order to be human need to relate, their is a difference between information harvesting and relationally connecting with others. The Google age in which we live is great for looking up information, be it the bio of that band your heard on the radio or the youtube exploits of your ex boyfriend, but information is different from intimacy.

Twitter or someones facebook status may let us know what others are up to, but this is very different from being ‘known’. In advertising you find yourself in a battle with others messages and brands in a marketplace, all competing for attention from your audience of consumers. Strangely this dynamic is being reflected in how we relate to each other, our personal branding must become more slick, we must make ourselves appear interesting, and popular, in order to receive validation as valuable people.

Our culture does not give us too many clues on how to develop deeper relationships it only tells us how to gather wider relationships. We have more contact with people than we have ever had before, but that contact is miles wide and only an inch deep. We are tech rich but relationally poor.

One of the missional roles of the church in the 21st century may be how to teach people again how to have actual friendships, that are long, deep and rewarding. The people of God may more and more find ourselves being prophetic simply because we are a community.

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