The Definition of Me

by Ashley on April 30, 2012

I just spent an absurd amount of time choosing a photo to use for my Facebook Timeline cover.

Not only that, I put off updating my Facebook to Timeline mode for months (months!) because of this indecisiveness. I couldn’t decide what photo “defined” me. As if a photo could define someone. As if Facebook even matters that much.

It is disturbing, though, to think about Facebook as a catalogue of my life. This application knows my birth date, my likes and dislikes, who my friends are, and that I like to call myself a writer. It knows I like to post funny pictures of animals from around the interwebs, it knows I’m obsessed with hedgehogs, and it knows where I live.

As unsettling as that may be, I still felt that this cover image needed to illustrate something I’m passionate about. It needed to represent, at least in a small way, who I am.

So while searching for just the right photo (of the appropriate size, which is preposterously horizontal, by the way), several ideas went through my head.

I didn’t want to actually be in the photo on my cover because I didn’t want to appear self-centered. I hunted for a good photo of the beach because it’s the place I feel most at home. I considered a gorgeous image of the marsh at Pawley’s Island, but that’s more my husband’s escape than mine. Eventually I settled on a snapshot of my hedgie and one of my kitties being adorable.

Ace and Sammy

Warning: Excessive cuteness


A similar concept that started on MySpace (what’s that?) was that users could choose a song to go on their profile. Eventually the single song turned into a playlist, so I could compose a collection of explanations, moods and representations of myself.

Granted, I might be taking these selections a bit too seriously. But after I finished uploading and cropping and positioning and publishing this cover image, I realized I had chosen poorly if I were really looking for a definition of me.

Limiting myself like that, to believe that someone can understand who I am just by knowing that I like animals, the ocean and music, is doing myself a grave injustice.

Some of us define ourselves by our jobs. When you first meet someone, don’t you normally ask what they do for a living? I like to introduce myself by saying I’m a writer and editor.

Some of us define ourselves by causes we believe in. Whether it’s raising money to build water wells in Africa or raising awareness about misunderstood diseases, if someone is passionate about a particular cause, it’s likely you’ll know about it. Personally, I love seeing the look on people’s faces when I tell them I do hedgehog rescue. (There’s a whole nonprofit society dedicated to this endeavor. I kid you not.)

Some of us define ourselves by our families. When getting to know someone, you quickly learn whether they’re married and whether they have children. I tend to make a joke to explain why I don’t have kids yet.

We define ourselves by successes and failures, by social status and economic achievement, by dreams and disappointments.

All these things contribute to who we have become. They shape our personalities and attitudes. They’ve helped mold the path we’ve taken to get to our present state of affairs. But they do not define us.

We have been called to be so much more than that.

No one asks what you believe during introductions. (Weird, I know.) But I want to make sure that people know I’m a Christian. It’s not the first thing I’ll tell you because that seems too aggressive to me. Bringing up religion or politics is bound to start a fight.

But that’s not even necessary. If I’m concentrating on being a Christ-follower, people around me should be able to tell by my words and actions. By the way I treat others. By being honest even when no one is looking.

That’s how I want to define myself.

But I’m leaving my Facebook cover as the kitty/hedgie combo of cute, so don’t judge me.

What defines you?



Ashley, this is all really interesting. I’m totally uncomfortable with the whole social media thing of publishign all your personal info for everybody to see and defining yourself. That’s why I shy away from it. My profile has a couple of pictures and basically no info about me.

I’ve always tried to avoid defining myself. Once you do that, you say what you are. That also defines what you are not, and that’s limiting. Social media sites almost kinda demand that you do that. Good for branding if you’re a business, but personally it’s kinda weird.

by Greg on April 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm. Reply #

Greg, I’m like you in that I don’t publish a whole lot of info about myself online. I do post a lot of pictures, but I don’t have the whole lineup of movies, music, and personal bio stuff.
A concrete definition also could limit change for some people. If someone defines herself as “the mommy” it could be really tough when the birdies leave the nest. As you mention, a business brand probably wants more consistency, so the concrete definition isn’t so bad. Hopefully it doesn’t limit adaptability, though. For me, I don’t mind defining myself by my faith, because although that might evolve over time, I don’t ever want it to change.
Thanks for stopping by!

by Ashley on April 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm. Reply #

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