Have you ever seen something posted on Facebook or Twitter and felt this strong urge to mount a vigorous response? I get that feeling a lot. When I scroll through my feeds I see an awful lot of stuff that sets off my, "Hey. That's not right" button. Whether it is a repost of information that is clearly urban myth or outright lies designed to misinform the public about a politician or issue, I often ask myself, "Can I let this go unchallenged?"
Social media has given everyone a platform. It has provided everyone a megaphone to communicate their opinions. For every decadent recipe for chocolate oreo balls that comes across my feed, there is a political or religious post that raises my blood pressure a few points.
I've been reflecting on this for a while, trying to figure out the most mindful approach to engaging in social media. Here are the questions I think about:
The struggle usually comes down to this. Do I avoid conflict and allow the person to have his/her opinion without my input or is there a responsibility on my part to fight for what I believe in?
I'm not sure what the right answer is. Perhaps it must be taken on a case by case basis. A list came across my feed today (see below), and I felt it was incredibly relevant to this discussion. It is a list that I will try to keep in mind when I am using social media.
I apologize if anyone is offended by the word "spiritual." I try hard to keep the tone of the blog as secular as possible, but these twelve symptoms were just too perfect for the topic of this post.
I paid particular attention to symptoms 8-10. I have found that when I am consistent with my mindfulness practice I have far less interest in conflict. The desire to show people I am right diminishes, and I am far more comfortable with opposing positions. The instinct to rebut others nearly vanishes. The way I approach conflict is lighter. I'm far more open to the idea that I may be the one that's wrong. It's as if my life's mantra becomes, "Let it be." I smile more and realize that everyone, including myself is evolving. That evolution may be slower than I'd like sometimes (particularly my own), but progress marches on. When I zoom out far enough, through mindfulness, I see that my judgment of others plays a huge part in thwarting my own progress and is often rooted in fear. I recognize that my ego is looking for ways to be separate and above others rather than tapping into my "spirit" which is seeks connection and peace.
I don't think that mindfulness means we have to avoid speaking out about the issues we feel are important. I think it just means that when we speak out we do so in a way that first seeks connectedness and avoids viewing others as our opponents or enemies. We do so in a way that demonstrates openness and equanimity. We do so in a way that avoids animosity and puts love first. We should seek first to understand and THEN to be understood. When we take a mindful approach, we recognize when ego/fear is inserting itself into the interaction and short-circuit it in an effort to avoid negative emotions within us and in others.
If you have not already done so, I hope you will connect with me on Facebook and/or Twitter. You can help keep me accountable for the words I have written here.