Search This Blog

Friday, December 30, 2011

Mindfulness and Social Networking

I've been thinking a lot lately about the time I spend on Social Networking sites.  I'm not talking about sites like Facebook, even as I am aware that several old school Buddhist teachers in particular have been very critical of all social networking.  I am also aware that some social scientists are making allegedly profound proclamations about how "authentic" interactions on social networking sites can be.  All of that notwithstanding, social networking is a reality of 21st century life.  Like any other human construct, it has positive and negative qualities.  In the end, if you seek to be relevant and reach people in contemporary society, social networking needs to be part of an effective, holistic approach.  That being said, there are some sites which really serve no purpose for me and just add to the amount of time I spend maintaining my presence there.  It's those sites I am re-evaluating.

To be sure, there are people in cloistered and semi-cloistered environments who have little or no interaction with the outside world and get along just fine.  Equally true is that they have little impact on their world, little or no use of prophetic voice, but can achieve a high degree of realization in that they are dedicated to spiritual practice in a full-time way.  My problem is that I have a bit of a dichotomy going on. I like people, but there are many times when I have had more than enough of them and need to take a break.  At the same time, I realize that I am called to use my prophetic voice, and that trying to do so in a cloistered environment would be an exercise in futility.  The time will come in my life, I am quite sure, when my perceived call to prophetic voice will lessen and I will move more toward my contemplative leanings on a full-time basis.  For now, however, I live a balance of the two callings and so need to be active on social networking.  I have also developed friendships with a few people on those sites that I value very deeply.  All of that having been said, there are some sites - especially those that seem to exist only to create competition between people who use social networking around who is using it more, or more effectively - that just seem to be a colossal waste of time.  There are also sites that showed great promise, like G+, that have made using them so inefficient by not allowing updates from other sources like Twitter that the cost-benefit analysis for using them is pretty poor.

From a spiritual perspective, it seems to me that we need to be mindful of how our time is spent.  If we are spending our time in a way that is beneficial, great.  When we detect areas in which the time we spend is inefficient we need to ask if that inefficiency isn't really just a huge distraction from our spiritual growth and goals.  Do sites like Empire Avenue really make a difference, or are they just a waste of time?  Each of us will have different answers to that question, but we all need to ask the question and then take action in accord with our decisions.  If we don't we may well waste our life away through mindless use of the technology.

We could ask the same questions about how much we really need a cell phone to do, but that's a different post!

1 comment: