What we need most at the end of the day…

In a recent Times article, the reporter Emma Goldberg wrote about how the rise of social media and influencer power has made it such that young people, in particular, find their livelihood, success and sense of self inextricably entwined with an online presentation. She wrote, “With personal branding, the line between who people are and what they do disappears. Everything is content.” A strange, exhausting new twist in being human is that each day, each of us must decide how much of ourselves, our family life, thoughts, work, photos and feelings we will share with strangers online. Goldberg quoted Tom Peters, a marketing writer, who explained that, we are each “head marketer for the brand called You.”

To reduce ourselves to brands, however, is to do violence to our personhood. We turn ourselves into products, content to be evaluated instead of people to be truly known and loved. We convert the stuff of our lives into currency.

This new way of interacting with the world is driving institutional dysfunction, personal anxiety and the hollowing out of ourselves…Klein confessed that social media had made him hungry for validation. It offers us, he said, a steady drumbeat of “You exist. You are seen.” This longing to be seen and validated is universal, but this desire has been co-opted by technologists to capture more and more of our time and attention…

I have gotten letters from time to time from readers declaring me their pastor, and of course, I’m flattered and grateful. I hope to be of help to them, yet I cannot be their pastor. I cannot hold their hands and pray over them in the hospital. I cannot grieve with them after the loss of a loved one or rejoice when they land a job. A pastor and the work of local churches more broadly are tethered to a place, an institution and a particular people, with all the complexity, hilarity, struggle and mystery of their lives.

What we need most at the end of the day has nothing to do with influence or brands. We need quiet beauty and enduring truth that we share with those who walk this journey with us…

—  Tish Harrison Warren, from “The Temptations of the ‘Personal Brand’” (New York Times, January 29, 2023). Tish Harrison Warren (@Tish_H_Warren) is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America and the author of “Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep.”


  1. Food for thought.


  2. yes, this – ‘What we need most at the end of the day has nothing to do with influence or brands. We need quiet beauty and enduring truth that we share with those who walk this journey with us…’

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I was stopped dead by the same passage that Beth cites. So very true….now more than ever….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. If we look at our behaviour not only as bloggers we see exactly what Tish describes. More so when we worked. Our dear Master was a brand name and that was necessary to be able to live his comfortable life as retiree. But already before social media that was the case at least for artists.
    Well, that we need enduring truth is quite a romantic idea. What is enduring truth, does something like this exists?
    Keep well
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a very interesting insight. I think you’re right, to the degree that a lot of us do build identities out of what we do for work. But I think the key difference is that in the current social media world, one’s entire life becomes one’s work. So while it is certainly problematic to derive a sense of self from, say, working as a lawyer, that lawyer still has, in theory, other strands to their identity: their family, their hobbies, their pets… In the social media space as it is now, one’s family, hobbies, pets are part and parcel of their work.
      The case of the artist is super interesting, and I wonder if you would classify a writer the same way. I suppose all artistic work requires one to pour oneself into the work. Again, though, I think there are elements of life that an artist can keep private in a way that seems unthinkable for a lifestyle blogger. The artist must put their emotion into their work, and they draw inspiration for their work from real life, but they need not capture every aspect of that life in their work.
      As for enduring truth, that is a great question…

      Liked by 2 people

    • Wow Klaus. Not sure what language that was or how that got there. What I meant to say was thank you as you have given me a lot to think about!


  5. I remember the first time I heard about one’s tech footprint, and how easy it is to expand it into a size unrecognizable and open to some unwelcome interpretations – in short, the tipping point between popularity and appreciation and mockery and even cruelty. It’s a fine balance.


  6. YES. The same line hit me as well (as Beth and Lori). Also: ‘To reduce ourselves to brands, however, is to do violence to our personhood.’ It truly is a violence, and I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before. This is so important. Thank you for sharing, DK.


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