I wanted to try a slightly different angle with this post and create a call-out for discussion surrounding a particular topic. Before I begin however, I think it’s important to highlight the wonderful work that continues to be done by WikiLeaks (yes, their servers are down at the moment due to incredibly high levels of traffic) in providing a space for whistleblowers to find a voice.
The recent publication of over 90,000 documents pertaining to the war in Afghanistan needs to be commended as many times as possible. Obviously digesting all of this material can be quite a daunting prospect, so I would direct you to the analysis done by the New York Times as one of the best mainstream media examinations of the leak.
With that important announcement dealt with, let’s get onto the question at hand: does social media negatively impact spirituality?
Let me get the initial response that we all have out of the way – ‘It depends how you use it. It’s only a tool.‘ I agree with this sentiment entirely, but for the sake of promoting discussion let’s forget about that point for a moment and presume it a given. What I wanted to look into, specifically, is whether social media in its various forms (and most particularly manifestations such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that rely on individual digital identities) helps to promote aspects of our being that tend to have a negative impact on spiritual progression. Even more specifically – does social media feed our egos beyond all else?
Now, I’m expecting a number of you to bring up different ideas around just what spiritual progression, and spirituality, actually means – and I’d really like to promote such a response as it’s obviously one half of the question being raised here. For me, a large component of spiritual progression revolves around the dissolution of individual ego and striving to seek success purely for personal gain.
As one progresses spiritually, there seems to be an almost universal tendency to see that progress as being done for the greater good of all rather than merely the individual. You are no longer seeking enlightenment (or however it is phrased) for personal glory or gain; you are doing so in order to play your role in the uplifting reintegration of the entire universe. A feat that, ultimately, means that you as an individual ceases to have any relevance; or even existence.
From this perspective, we can still come to either conclusion in regards to social media. In some regards, it enables us to better empathise with those within our network – understanding to a far greater degree the intricacies that their lives involve and therefore being exposed to some of the many different and varied ways of expressing the human condition.
If we enter into it with the right frame of mind, these tools can certainly provide us with a small glimpse into a form of consciousness that is wider than merely our own. The peer group becomes a microcosmic expression of the macrocosmic collective consciousness, and we might in some small way learn to immerse ourselves within it.
On the other hand, there is almost no better set of tools for the negative influence that our ego is capable of than those provided by social media. Here we have an exponentially increased ability to portray ourselves as kings of our own universes – mavericks, femme fatales, social influencers, political powerhouses, erudite authors and every other form of social category that might be desirable/hip/independent/better-than-you.
In fact, what I have tended to observe is that those who are more spiritually aware (notice I don’t use the word ‘progressed’) tend to also be those who use social media in an ego-aggrandising manner…and before you start, yes I myself am guilty of this crime and am not just passing judgement from my tower of perfected serenity. Observing this behaviour in myself is actually what led me to start seeing it in others in my social media networks, and once you start really looking for it it’s amazing just what you will see. In moments of intense spiritual focus, it can actually be quite a depressing and even terrifying experience.
I wrote a post related to this exploration, entitled ‘Crafting a Digital Identity‘, which was when I first started becoming self-aware of this tendency within my own behaviour and began to see it clearly in others as well. From what I can gather reading around the subject, I don’t think it’s something that is purely a coincidence formed out of the rag-tag group of peers that I seem to have assembled online.
The individually inflated ego is one of the true identifiers of the human condition and one that will always latch onto any available tool and outlet in order to enhance its influence. Social media quite often, ironically, leads us to become more inward looking and self-obsessed.
So, if spiritual progression finds much of its utility from the productive dissolution of this egotistical behaviour than surely social media must be seen as a highly negative and spiritually destructive influence at its worst; and at the very least a dangerous set of tools that we must be ever vigilant of if we hope to use them positively.
So what do you think? There are plenty more areas I could cover with this, but I wanted to leave them for the time being to see whether or not this experiment in creating a topic discussion here on Future Conscience might be fruitful. So please do comment, and at length if you feel up to it. I’m very interested to see where you might take this…
Is social media a negative influence on our spirituality? Or do the connections and information we gain allow us to rise above the less savoury aspects and overall find great value? What are the pros, what are the cons? If we become a social media driven society, which at this point in time looks like quite a likely conclusion, then what impact will that have on our ability to be humble…to connect with things greater than ourselves and our own forged image?
Or is this post just another example of somebody waxing-lyrical and posting it on Facebook in order to appear ‘deep’?