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Morgan Harper Nichols: What to Do When People Can’t Accept That You’ve Changed

You’ve probably seen this before: A viral series by Wired where celebrities sit down and answer the web’s most searched questions about them. The questions range from everything from how they got famous to who the celebrities’ romantic partners are. I always found this series to be fascinating, and even though I don’t have the volume of searches that are involved in the Wired series, I was inspired to type my name into a search engine and see what came up. I went to Pinterest’s search engine and one of the top search terms: “Morgan Harper Nichols Quotes Jesus.”

I have been a writer and artist for some time now, and years ago, I had an Instagram page where I used to share devotionals that I wrote. After a few years of posting every single day, I took a break from it, and then, when I actually tried to go back to it, it had been hacked, and now, I don’t have access to it anymore.

Since then, I have had people email me and DM me on social media asking,

“Morgan, why don’t you talk about ‘faith’ anymore?”

This question fascinates me. It fascinates me because if you share something online for a period of time, and then you stop sharing it, it causes people to wonder…and just wonder about the content you’ve shared, but they also wonder about you.

Perhaps:

You used to share pictures of your family or friends and then, you stopped.You used to share your relationship and now you don’t.You used to follow certain people and now you don’t.You used to post bible studies and now you don’t.You used to post every day and then you stopped.And in my case, you used to share personal prayers and devotions=als from your journal, and then you stopped.

Sometimes, you’re able to just stop sharing and move on. But there are other times, you might just open your inbox to questions:

“What happened?”
”Why did you stop?”
”Is everything okay?”
”Why don’t you ______ anymore? Is it because you _______?”

Or perhaps, even more dramatically, they don’t ask you, and instead, they turn to people that know you to try and figure it out. Or, in our modern times, they turn to a search engine which doesn’t just render the search results itself, but collects the most popular searches and creates a hierarchy of them for all to see. Of course, there are times where this is useful and helpful. And there are other times, where you might find that a chapter of your life has become a search term.

[Insert your name] and [insert romantic partner’s name] |[Insert your name] [insert an old project of yours] [Insert your name] [where you used to work] [Insert your name] [a no-longer-existing social media page] ”Is [Insert your name] still _____?””What happened to [insert your name]?”

Perhaps, it’s a lot of natural human curiosity that causes this “wonder,” and at the same time, this idea that a human being must keep on sharing the same thing publicly, at all times can be dangerous. It teaches us that if we have been vulnerable or shared something personal or from a private place, then we will continue to be liked, accepted, and rewarded by continuing to do so.

I stopped sharing from my personal devotionals because it got in the way of my own time with God…I was thinking about how people online would respond to personal prayers. It didn’t feel right. I started making art and slowly but surely, poetry found its way onto the canvas. Words that felt God-breathed and I felt wrapped in Christ’s Love as I created.

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Now here’s the thing: I personally don’t mind the fact that people have searched for my old posts, but when it comes to some of the messages I’ve received, it HAS been discouraging at times.

And this is also true: I am at peace in knowing that I am (and what I make) is a part of something greater than me. I exhale knowing that no matter my capacity to create and share in any given season, as I live and breathe right here, there is grace.

I share all of this with anyone who has ever felt the pressure to keep sharing as you always have. You are going to continue to change and grow and what you share online, who you share it with, if you share at all is going to change, too.

I cannot tell you if search terms will be created around your name someday or not, but I can tell you this: you are not the sum of what you have shared online.

Of course, not everyone shares their lives online, but with more videos and posts going viral each day and companies like Tiktok, Instagram, and Snapchat investing millions into turning everyday users into content creators, more and more people are finding themselves in a position of sharing their lives online. And in the years to come many people may find themselves in the same situation that I found myself in: a chapter of your life became an internet search term, and now you’re wondering what to do?

Perhaps, there are no easy answers for this and we will have to figure it out as we go, but what I do know is this: it matters that we extend grace to ourselves and others who are learning to create boundaries around what they share online, if they share at all. Whether search terms and social media pages come ago, what matters is that we each know who we are beyond them.


Morgan Harper Nichols is a mixed-media artist and writer in Phoenix, Arizona. Her new book Peace Is A Practice is available now.

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