How To Engage With Social Media Like A Buddhist
Social media can be a playground for unconscious behavior. I’ve spent an unbelievable amount of time scrolling through Instagram, perusing cat memes, and checking to see how many likes a photo I posted received. It’s amazing how quickly time passes when I’m interacting with people I kinda-sorta-know, ogling their selfies, judging their significant others, and oftentimes, learning more than I want to about their choice of protein powder or a particular quote applies to their current romantic situation.
Still, social media is the byproduct of a call for a connection. We crave intimate details about people in our social circle. We want to know that others are going through similar situations or share our opinions, as that provides us with the feeling of union by showing us our commonalities. Sometimes, it can be a joyful experience (we make new friends and gain support), while other times, our interactions are rooted in fear (we make judgments, or base our self-worth on our image and the feedback we receive from others). Basically, we engage with social media from our egos, and it looks something like this:
7AM – Post selfie coupled with comment that is, at its core, declaration of one’s most profound life view, summarized in a mere two sentences, paired with the perfect emoji, and finished with 24 hashtags, all of which end in AF or the letter “z”.
7:15AM – Check post. No likes or comments. We decide that there are only two viable options: a)Our selfie wasn’t as striking as we imagined, or, b)Our “friends” are complete losers. We opt for option b and continue scrolling.
7:30AM – Like count only up to four. One snarky comment, by some guy named Ted, wants to start a social media feud over said life view comment. Engage in feud. Come up with a clever comeback. Take that Ted from Bushwick.
This goes on ad infinitum, all the while wasting an extraordinary amount of time and energy. Our minds link our sense of self-worth to our posts, friend count, and the number of likes, which means that we feel good about ourselves when we receive praise and bad about ourselves when we don’t. We don’t separate the idea that a post received 72 likes from I got 72 likes. Our language shows that our identities have become inextricably linked with our image on social media. After all, we went through a lot of trouble editing those photos, choosing the right filter, and trying out several poses before finding the one that makes us look just right.
So how do we engage with social media mindfully?
1. We look at our intention.
We ask ourselves a life-changing question posed in the spiritual text A Course in Miracles: What is it for?
Are we posting to show off? To receive praise? To prove that we’re awesome? To share? To spread love? To shock people? If we’re posting to share with loved ones or to spread a positive message that might lighten someone’s day, then we are using social media in a way that’s serving us and others
2. We play the role of the observer, watching our thoughts and emotions.
We can step back from our thoughts and watch them: Oh, interesting. I’m judging my ex-girlfriend’s post. Oh, look at me, feeling validated because I received a sleuth of compliments! Oh, funny how I’m disappointed because no one responded to the question I threw out in my caption. Once we become aware of our thoughts and don’t identify with them, we bring a sense of presence to our posting.
3. We detach from our posts.
We are not our content. We produce content, but once we post it, we can separate who we are from what we put out, being careful not to feel personally hurt when someone responds to a picture (even if it’s a selfie), or a personal opinion, particularly if we post about hot topics. If we chose to post about politics, religion/spirituality, food, etc., we have to be prepared for others to disagree and express opposing viewpoints.
4. We decide to demonstrate only love.
Social media is not the vehicle to complain, spread negativity, or judge others. Instead, we declare that we will use social media for the sole purpose of uplifting others, not because we want to get something (likes, followers, praise), but rather because we want to give something (laughter, humor, a reason to celebrate, etc.).
Everything can be used as a tool to become more conscious, to experience more joy, and to connect with others. We get to choose what we bring into our awareness, onto our screens, and further, into our energy fields. We can use social media to awaken, spread peace, and connect with strangers in a profoundly beautiful way.
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