As the world seems to be falling apart, and social media introduces a new level of cacophony of misinformation, speculation, and downright venomous bile — we should ask ourselves, is what I am about to say better than silence? Am I adding anything to what’s already being said? And possibly most importantly, is my desire to say it keeping me from listening to what is already being said. Because waiting for your turn to talk is not the same as listening.
Have I actually improved the silence?
In a month where between Thatcher and Boston we definitely saw some of the worst of ‘social media’*, Mike Monteiro hits the proverbial nail on the head when he asks us to question our contributions to the digital debate. Twitter just seems to be flowing with bile at the moment. Conversely, I took a dip into Facebook recently following months of having a deactivated account and it just seems so dull, full of banal marketing waffle. Either way, its not very nice to swim in.
Monteiro’s Quaker-inspired creed is a very good way to conduct your online business. As I’ve explored Buddhism more, I think more and more about the effects of my online actions. I’ve become a bit more reluctant to just pump the contents of my brain out there, especially if its for cheap laughs at someones expense or if its throwing a bomb into a heated debate. Mindfulness needs to extend to all our actions, including our tweeting. Indeed, Prickly Goo was born out of a growing dissatisfaction with the tone of my old blog, which had (for me) become simply a rant-fest. Your words have consequences out there in the real world. We really need to think about those, and indeed, our motivations and intentions. Why are we saying what we are saying? I think a lot of why we publish these days is less to do with contributing or debating but more to do with solidifying our own digital ego. As the Boston Bombing story was breaking, you got the impression people were simply tweeting just for the sake of contribution, to be seen to be part of the ‘breaking event’. As a friend pointed out, we get the lunacy of people tweeting that they are speechless. You are telling us you have nothing to say.
*On a side note, there’s been a lot of meta naval gazing about social media’s role in such events. Almost as much discussion to the event itself is now given to how we discussed the event! And in doing so, ‘social media’ has become this almost natural force. Or, to paraphrase the Mighty Mos Def “People talk about social media like it’s some giant livin in the hillside, Comin down to visit the townspeople”