I recently read an article that was compelling and disturbing at the same time on how technology is messing with our identity and how in the future, with the rapid changes that are occurring, it is going to be even more difficult for a person to “find themselves” than it is now. And for many, this is a serious quest.
It was argued that our sense of identity usually comes from many factors in our lives – what we do, what we own, who we love and care for, our various roles, our gender, sexuality, race, the way we look, what we’re good at where we were born, what we habitually do, how we measure up to others – to name a few! Many of these are external references which suggests that our identity comes from outside and from within.
How is technology changing this?
Social media allows us to selectively choose what how we present ourselves to the world. We can become a person that appears to be quite different perhaps from who we really are – an extrovert, a party goer, a happy, fun loving , or excessively healthy individual. You choose. Many of us believe we are posting real images of who we are – with the people we love, on special holidays, yet even this is a snapshot of a point in time when things were going well! And creates an impression of how we want to be seen.
Our possessions are becoming simplified with many things stored online, no need for cash any more! Our memories are digital photos. If we can remember where we stored them!
Virtual reality games have become so popular where the player takes on a role to play –and uses their skills to make decisions during hundreds of hours of play. They try on an identity in a safe environment and it can become so addictively pleasurable that they might just “give up” the real world, not having to deal with messy complex things like feelings, failure and relationships that you can’t always control as easily as you can in cyberspace.
Cosmetic surgery has become easier and cheaper and genetics is moving rapidly towards our having the ability to switch on and off certain genes that influence who we are or might become. Pharmaceutical drugs allow us to alter our brain chemistry so we can have the kind of mood that suits who we want to be.
And then there’s our daily life spent continually online even when we’re going about our normal routine. Constant distractions, interruptions affect our ability to be present and in the moment.
HOW CAN COACHING HELP US RETAIN OR DEVELOP OUR SENSE OF SELF?
After writing the above, I then think of going into a coaching session – as coach or coachee. And everything slows down. We slip into a relaxed and calm conversation where the pace of life decreases and and atmosphere of curiosity and exploration is created. Good coaching helps us work out how we see ourselves and who we want to be. We can explore our strengths and what we enjoy doing. (Much of our identity is determined by what we feel most valuable doing.) We can talk about what matters to us and why we think certain things are important. We have time to explore our beliefs, both rational and irrational – work out what are still relevant with who we are today. Most of all we can take the time to think, feel and explore our individuality and question how we live and whether this life is giving us what we need. Do we have time to relish and savour experiences, people and feelings? In the process, we hope that we can eventually work out who we really are.