I have always been a strong individualist. My circumstances as a youth required it of me, the ability to say I can do anything (even when I couldn’t).
But the progression of individualism to expressive individualism in American society has taken a dark turn.
Expressive individualism refers to the idea that to be fulfilled, to be an authentic, to be genuinely me, we need to be able to express outwardly that which we feel inside. So expressive individualism in many ways’ casts aside a lot of the ideas of the self that previous generations may have held to.
Expressive individualism is this idea that the most authentic individuals, the most real person, is the person who expresses or performs outwardly that which they are inwardly no matter how immoral, rude, crude, vulgar or evil it may be. We see this television and unfortunately have seen this played out in our politics the past four years.
Expressive individualism aligns with some aspects of Christianity because the Bible has much to say about hypocrites. God has a lot to say about those who pretend outwardly to be one thing and yet are something quite different on the inside. The difference however between Christian expressive individualism and secular expressive individualism is that Christian expressive individualism realizes and admits that there is a problem with that which is inside. Humility and repentance require us to change our thinking and behavior whereas secular expressive individualism glorifies and promotes bad behavior and evil.
A Christian knows that inwardly he or she is sinful, and needs to repent, to turn to God, to go inwards to turn outwards toward God and toward Christ. That's where real authenticity lies not in our delusions of grandeur and need to dominate.
American journalist Yuval Levin describes expressive individualism as more than defining yourself in life. He states it is “a yearning for fulfillment through the definition and articulation of one’s own identity… and to live in society by fully asserting who you are.” We develop a drive for public self-pronouncement to advance our self-ness at all costs.
If you find that you are a different person on-line then change your habits, get off-line if necessary. Don’t’ damage your witness for Christ by being a hateful gossiping person in cyberspace or in the real world.