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Identity is under attack: what do we do?

Identity is defined by Oxford Languages dictionary as being who a person is. When many of us think of identity, we are drawn to think of our role in family, sports, academics, friend groups, or perhaps through the lens of the media we consume. How we perceive our identity strengthens our principles, influences our actions, and shapes our views. Knowing who we are builds our character and when we are assured in our identity, we become stronger people as a whole.

However, the concept of identity is under attack and studies show that this new wave of identity crisis is closely linked to social media consumption. Today, most of the information teenagers get and the people they see are through the social media we consume. There are notable issues with this perspective. In a 2020 conference at Curtin University, speaker Emily Webber noted the negative aspects of identity development through image-based platforms like Instagram, saying, “The inherent focus on looks and image can be catastrophically damaging to adolescents, their development of self, and ultimately their mental health.”

Principal Mr. Dan Cirone says social media is “your generation’s primary window into the world.” Furthermore, Mr. Cirone notes the platform’s tendency to narrow perspective: “You can hand select what aspect of our culture today that you would care to view and you can view it 24/7.”

Besides social media, our surroundings overall have a staggering impact on our identity. “[This can be a danger] if you build your identity on things that are inconstant, you set yourself up for failure,” says Mr. Cirone. He adds, “Right now, most high school students’ identities are locked into things we are passionate about including sports, friendships, family, romantic relationships, and academics. All of this falters and it is not stable; it is insecure.” When this happens, where are we led to then? Do we become nothing? This is the splinter in the seemingly perfect glass; this is what can shatter our entire identities.

A group of seven students at Eastern Christian were asked a series of questions regarding what impacts their personal identities. The popular answers were “the setting I am in, family, the media I consume, friends, parents, past life experiences, sports, and faith.” Freshman, Charlotte Ohnegian, when asked if she bases her identity on what she does, responds, “I would say I do base my identity on what I do because depending on what I do, that interacts with how I feel and that all determines my next actions which in the end is my identity. In simple words, you are what you do. And you are your own identity.”

Yet Mr. Cirone reminds us that we can find our real identity through Christ alone and the principles that we learn through Scripture. We as Christians should lean on God in our identity because he brings security. Mr. Cirone says, “that relationship is always there and you are always loved and always known by Him.” Always. This word is such a sharp contrast to the worldly centers that we all so commonly find ourselves leaning into instead. While these things may fall beneath your feet at any second, Christ will always be there to catch you and support you.

In times of consequential decisions, like being a senior and routing the course of your future, it is easy to find yourself identifying as this decision. For example, if a student decides to go to Michigan University, they may say when asked who they are, “I am a student at Michigan University.” Mr. Cirone elaborates, “While this is a great and huge and monumental decision, it is not really who you are. Who you are is a child of God and who you are is loved and known by him.” He continues, “If you build your identity on these decisions and something happens and your track gets derailed and God has something else in store for you, that shouldn’t mean that your identity is now insecure. You should always be able to find the security that I'm still loved and known by God and a child of the most High God and King. He loves me and that is who I am and my route just changed a little bit.”

The key is to know Christ so you can understand His love for us. Mr. Cirone reminds us, “Similar to what was shared in Chapel one week, Paul writes that he prays we might know how deep and wide God’s love is for us and that if we can get to understand the fullness and presence of God’s love in our lives, it will permeate throughout every aspect of our lives and all the other insecurities do not matter as much. Although, of course, these insecurities are still present and matter, you can have hope and know how to overcome them.”

Charlotte also adds, “Although sometimes when the community of non believers is around me and I get caught up with them, I still find my joy [and peace] when I am with God. I can find my true identity through Christ because he has the correct plans for me laid out.”



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