Options with Social Media

Social media has become an inspiring platform for communication.  Sharing ideas, news, opinions, supportive words and all the random humor you never knew you needed.  People who engage in social media whether it’s Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter or blogging are instantly empowered to persuade others.  The power in this is phenomenal, no more do we have to rely on mass media to report a story through their carefully prepared lens, when it’s being tweeted live or video footage streaming on YouTube.  Of course discretion is necessary too, the cliché yet true statement of “you can’t believe everything you read on the internet,” is valid.  People can use lies and deceit to influence others, we know this happens on and off the internet.

There are no limits to the tools social media can provide in advancing our society, improving awareness and protecting each other around the world.  There are no limits, except the ones we put on ourselves and each other.

In the last few weeks I have noticed an increasing number of friends and family who have voiced complaints about what others have shared on mass media.  “Oh my God, she posts so many baby pics it makes me sick.”  “I can’t stand all of the religious crap people share, if I wanted to hear it I would go to church.”  “I don’t get on Facebook for political arguments, I just want to catch up with family and friends.”  And the statements could go on and on…

You have choices when it comes to social media, what are you going to do?

Suffer

We are confronted with things we are irritated by on a daily basis, you can let yourself suffer by what you read from your crazy conservative college buddy, or what your boyfriend’s cousin thinks of animal welfare?  Suffering is always an option.  You can stew about it, let it put you in a foul mood and begin to question humanity wondering for hours about how someone could be so ignorant.  You might even try to influence their point of view by initiating an argument, which almost always reinforces the person’s initial perspective and puts them in a position to like you less.

Change It

If what someone says is bothersome to you, what you see is repulsive or the information conflicts with every ounce of your ethics maybe it’s time to take measures to spare your sanity. 

  • Cut ties.  Maybe it’s time to disassociate from some connections you have on social media.  It’s not necessary to continue to maintain online relationships with every individual you have ever met.  It’s acceptable to detach from your friend’s ex-girlfriend, the guy from high school you didn’t really like then either, or the co-worker who was laid off three years ago.
  • Block it.  If there are some people you want to maintain connection to online and can’t get over what they have to share, consider blocking their posts.  This can be especially helpful for the friend you are close to who is always negative about everything, over sharing their personal life or constantly reporting daily physical ailments you know is more related to them being a negative person than to real illness.
  • Influence opinions.  Instigating an argument is easy to do online, people can be openly vicious and cruel without fear of bodily harm.  However, no one is likely to respond positively and be persuaded to accept another view with “You’re wrong moron.”  If you really desire to change someone’s perspective and help them to grow to another point of view, the best means to influencing change is through validation.  Finding whatever may be true in their statement and letting them know you heard/saw/understand their perspective.  “It would be scary to have a three-headed monster living next door thinking they are cannibals.(validation)  Did you know 99% of three-headed monsters are vegetarian and the other 1% only eat glow worms.(influencing change)”

Acceptance

The final option you have when it comes to coping with social media posts is to accept you cannot control how other people think, what is important to them and how they want to share their opinions.  If you don’t like what someone has to say, keep scrolling. 

And if there are posts you are seeing which are upsetting to you, it could mean you need to do some self exploration.  Find out what is upsetting about it, why are you bothered and is there knowledge you need to gain to settle the discomfort.  In some instances, suffering leads to knowledge, activism and social change necessary to improve our world.  Would Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Teresa be posting pictures of kittens if they were alive today?

SocMed Activisim

Buddha Boots

In third grade I had the distinct realization my family was not like others.  Obviously a little slow in my childhood, or just too busy with Barbies and baby dolls to notice, I finally had the clarity to understand how different my family was from my friends’.  We did not go to church on Sundays and we ate a vegetarian diet.  In that devastated moment I questioned why my parents would be sabotaging my chances at leading a normal existence.  I can imagine my mom reassuring me in her usual calm and undisturbed manner, suggesting I can go to church if I choose and I can eat meat if I choose too. And so I did.  I tried tasting meat and I attended Sunday school with friends a few times before deciding I wasn’t really missing much with either.

Into adulthood the urge to eat meat never reappeared and the desire to find religion, well that never presented itself either, except I am at a firm disadvantage when biblical trivia comes up in games or television trivia. Despite my lack of time spent in places of worship, my life was not absent of spiritual teachings. And as I learned more about religions in general, I found ideas based in the Buddhist traditions paralleled my own thoughts the most.

Still not identifying with any specific religion I decided to take a Basics of Buddhism class to learn about Buddhism, practice meditation and give mommy some required weekly time out each week.

Part of week three’s lesson covered the Four Nobel Truths relating to dissatisfaction and suffering. The Nobel Truths recognize how all beings desire happiness and peace even though the nature of the world is impermanent. In other words, what makes us happy and secure in this moment could be very different in the next moment since life is ever-changing. The Nobel Truths explain if you can recognize your attachment, delusion or craving for what is not present in your life you can relieve yourself from the suffering associated with it.  Our thoughts revolving the attachment can perpetuate a negative emotion and the opposite is true by letting go of the attachment.

This principle can be applied to anything which causes suffering and it could be extremely useful if one could be effective at using it for major situations.  Imagine if you could just let go of the attachment to a home following a foreclosure, a spouse following a divorce, or a loved one following a death.  Imagine skipping out on the grief, despair and anger to move towards acceptance of what is present instead of what is missing.

Amazing, in concept, to have the power within my own mind to escape suffering. I’m not going to even pretend, after a few weeks of beginning to learn about Buddhism, that I could incarnate the patience and understanding of a Buddhist monk in the moment of crisis. I’m sure I would completely lose sight of these lessons and appear completely irrational should a tragedy occur in this moment, however, I have already had some real life application of this teaching.

Two days after my lesson on the Four Nobel Truths I was struck my the necessity to implement this strategy and acknowledge I was causing my own suffering. As so much of my learning is associated with my toddler these days she was also the target of this scenario. We had been shopping at a kids consignment sale, and with limited two-year old patience we managed to pick out a few toys and avoid the coveted riding toy area beforebuddhaboots1 we had to make it through the line to check out. The checkout line happened to be situated next to the long table of shoes. I’m usually not one to be interested in previously worn shoes and since my daughter’s Nana can’t leave a store without buying her a pair I hardly ever even browse.  Except these red leather cowgirl boots caught my eye and I immediately envisioned these being beloved shoes she would want to wear with every outfit. I could picture red boots over leggings or with a jean skirt and a white t-shirt. She would be stylish and ready to hop on a horse at any moment. Excited by my finding I showed them to Parker and even offered her the choice in colors, and was thrilled when she agreed with the red.

When we got home I couldn’t wait to try them on, to watch the magic and celebrate our consignment sale find. The boots slid on easily and about as quickly as they were on she shook her legs to kick them back off.  Without an explanation, she decided she would not wear them.  It seemed the harder I urged, the frequency I requested and the more creative I tried to trick her into the boots only made her increase the stubbornness against it. After much frustration and disappointment I remembered the ideas of the Four Nobel Truths and recognized I was creating my own suffering by holding onto my attachment of the red boots.

buddhaboots2We can spend a lot of energy being frustrated by things not going as planned, by failure or changes to our vision. And in some cases, if we really decide we don’t want to be unhappy, we can be mindful of what’s causing the suffering and let go of how we thought things should be.  I let go of the red boots, I acknowledged my ideas of how adorable they would be weren’t worth the misery I was feeling with my toddler creating her own vision.  I finally gave up on the boots and formulated the connection to the Buddhist teachings with this plan to write about it.  When I set up the boots to take a picture, Parker suddenly regained interest.  She pulled them from my picture set-up, sat down and pulled each onto their respective foot.  I snapped a few pictures while she stomped and wiggled, then within minutes they were kicked back off again.  After the little tease it was easier for me to remind myself to let go of the attachment – these little red boots were only meant to be a Buddha Boot lesson for me.

buddhabootsgirl