Labelling seems unique to computer-goers of the Internet Era, specifically, Millennials and even some Gen X and Gen Yers… From AOL chatrooms to Open Diary to MySpace, and now Facebook, we’ve labeled ourselves freely and with abandon.
It’s important, we reasoned, when you’re taking to a stranger on the internet, that they know some important things about you in a succinct manner. A/S/L — age, sex, location. What religion we are. What our political leanings are. Our sexual orientation or gender presentation. Our favorite quotations or song lyrics. Things about us that are symbolic of our personalities, our likes and dislikes; our whole self. It’s a form of branding, and for years we were proud of it.
While I was on Facebook, I noticed that I was the only one going through a labeling crisis. You see, I was having trouble pin-pointing what word to use to describe my (all over the place, vacillating, radically queer, conservative) religious leanings. “Spiritual Henotheist” just wasn’t cutting it anymore. So I turned to the Facebook profiles of the decade older friends I had acquired from the local Episcopalian church. And guess what?
None of them had anything listed for their religious beliefs.
It was as if it didn’t matter.
For most people (as is evidenced by bigotry and wars around the world), religion is a pretty big frickin’ deal. But for someone who didn’t grow up in the internet culture that I did, it wasn’t that religion wasn’t important, it was that coming up with the perfect word to describe your religious leanings (or any list of ways to define yourself on Facebook) just wasn’t important in the context of social media.
It brings back a sense of nostalgia to put so much effort into crafting a perfect representation of myself on my social media outlets. It probably does for a lot of people my age, or people who aren’t my age but were internet-savvy long before it was cool.
It’s something I learned as a queer person — labeling oneself can help you understand yourself better, and in that light, it can be freeing. But in other ways, it’s confusing, and you get to a point where you think, why bother with labels at all?
While I’ll still probably formulate my Facebook profile to be a reflection of me pretty far into the future, it’s starting to matter less. If you ask, I’ll tell you what I am.
What I am is me.
A person who deserves respect.
Regardless of my A/S/L, my sexual orientation, gender presentation, religious or political leanings, or my favorite bands. I’m just me.