Thinking a lot about this massive social phenomenon called “social media” and specifically Facebook. It strikes me that, as a social collective, none of us are really very good at this right now. Think of it. The widespread use of social media is still relatively new to human society, having only been accessible in its current form for a few short years. Social media is young. The technologies are new and perhaps naive. Human behavior, rooted deep in ancient times, and predicated for so many years on very different norms of communication and interaction, does not seem in general to have adjusted smoothly to the new opportunities that social media offers. Maybe we just don’t know how to do it very well yet.
Why, for example, am I writing this post? Is it that important to me that all of you know this particular thought of mine? Am I compelled to “share” it? Toward what purpose? Do I, or any of us, have a mysterious craving need to represent ourselves to the population at large, a craving so needy that I, or any of us, cannot resist “sharing”? Why? Is it quite important to me that you “like” me, or that you “share” my perspective?
Possibly it is only the ages-old need to express oneself. Writers, musicians, dancers and other artists of all generations have certainly felt some need to express their inner selves to the world.
But historically the showcases for that expression have been relatively less accessible, requiring far more care and diligence of thought, and perhaps far more rehearsal and critique. And certainly the breadth and depth of audience was never as profoundly accessible as it is now.
Now, here in the 21st century, amid astounding new technologies never before experienced in human society, the boundaries and constraints of accessibility are wide open and immediate. Is gratification perhaps more important now than expression?
It seems that with social media people shoot fast, nearly random, thoughts out into the world with a quick click, attempting to provoke it, annoy it, persuade or convince it of some small bit of “truth,” whose origin is unknown, is mostly irrelevant, and with evidently little concern about credibility, validity, knowledge or wisdom (elitist as it is). It feels more like the staking of territory, or the need to let the world know who we are and validate our own sense of being. Is this true? Perhaps that is a bit overreaching. Perhaps not.
So I will stake my ground here with everyone else. I was thinking that the consumers of social media appear to be buffeted by turbulent winds of thought and opinion, some acrimonious and hateful, some loving and kind, some grounded in reality and some delusional in denial. It reminded me of the “four worldly winds,” a Buddhist thought I was exposed to some time in my past, exactly when I cannot recall.
The Four Worldly Winds are Gain and Loss, High and Low Status, Approval and Disapproval, Pleasure and Pain.
It led to a bit of searching on my part and I found this wonderful article, written recently by Bodhipaksa, a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001.
After reading it I had a deep sense of how errant my ways have become. Most importantly, it reminded me of the deep threads that bind my life together, that I have woven into my own sense of integrity and character. It took me back, past social media and easily bantered and shallow thoughts, to the core elements that bind and protect me. The first, and I think most important, is loving kindness. And it is that bit of thread that I have allowed to become unraveled.
I have some work to do.