I used to be really against delving into the social media realm. It used to be something I felt a bit self-righteous about as well, as in: “I’m better than you because I’m not on Facebook.” It’s a little hard to admit, but it’s true.
But after a recent writer’s conference and having the message of: If you want to be a writer you need to be on social media drilled into me by all of the published authors I saw in different workshops (yes, they ALL spoke to it) I dove head first into the waters of social media. In the span of only one or two days I formed a personal facebook page, a twitter account, pinterest page, and looked into creating my own website. If I had a smartphone I would’ve started an instagram account as well, but I don’t so I didn’t.
I’ve been operating a facebook page for our local sangha (Be Here Now Community) for the past 4 years or so but without a personal page of my own the functions available to me on facebook had been quite limited until recently. So when I opened a personal facebook page it was rather overwhelming figuring out how things worked. And twitter was, and still is, rather a mystery to me. I don’t pretend to understand really what I’m doing on twitter and what I “should” be tweeting about.
The worlds of facebook and twitter revealed to me what I had always heard, and logically understood on some level even though I didn’t have personal experience with them – they can be a very large time suck. One can easily allow themselves to become swept away down the social media rabbit hole, turning 5 minutes into 3 hours of reading posts and tweets and clicking links and scrolling through photos. I was cautious of this when starting out and was determined to use my mindfulness practice to stay in balance with these online platforms. I wanted to be careful not to allow myself to get sucked in for too long a stretch at a time. I also wanted to stay open to the possibilities of connection on facebook, rather than automatically just putting down anything having to do with social media. Its important to stay open and to understand that everything and everyone are impermanent, including myself. If I’m stuck in one way of thinking or seeing something, unable to change, then I may miss out on opportunities for growth and understanding. So getting into facebook and twitter has been a good practice both for expanding my perspective and for cultivating community in a very different way than I’m used to.
Through facebook I’ve been able to connect with family and friends I haven’t spoken to in a very long while and who live far away. I’ve been able to find some great news articles and inspirational photos, quotes (like the one shown above), and stories on both facebook and twitter. I am careful who I follow on twitter and I don’t accept friends on facebook unless I know them, in order to more closely monitor what comes up in my feed. I limit my time on these sites and practice to stay present. It’s a bit of a challenge to use social media mindfully but it’s very possible and offers a good platform in which I can practice strengthening my resolve for cultivating mindfulness, my discernment process, and self-restraint.
As with any and all things social media can be a tool or a weapon depending upon how we use it. There are many great opportunities and possibilities available through its use and I’m grateful for being able to see and experience what they are for myself. I appreciate seeing posts of my cousins pictures of their kids and the bounty of a friend’s garden. I appreciate seeing how supportive folks are in the wake of the violence in Paris. I appreciate seeing how much good stuff is being put out there into the electronic universe and to have the opportunity to be a part of the collective voice that echos into the hearts of the masses. May our words be useful, may our words be kind.