How Social Media Impedes Awakening
To be clear, I am just scratching the surface when it comes to meditation and associated insights. If awakening is similar to non-dual awareness and/or egolessness, then how does social media prevent insight that leads to awakening? I would posit that ego-based distractions are the primary, or the only, impediment along the contemplative path.
After watching The Social Dilemma, I started to wonder how my social media use impacts my life. In particular, I became curious as to how social media impacts my contemplative practices.
Ego, False-Self, No-Self, and Awakening
Most of the time we’re super identified with our egos -- our thought-based patterns about our past and future, or our “social self”. This is in opposition to being identified with our moment-to-moment sensate experience. Thought-based relation to “myself” is what I would refer to as the “dream state”.
The dream state is self-perpetuating: the more we think about our past and future, the more identified we become with our thoughts about ourselves. The “dream state” is basically our internal vision of how we appear to the world, through others’ eyes. While it’s important to understand how we show up in relationship with others, that is not our “true self”.
Awakening is the process of identifying with the “true self” or more accurately, “no self”. Awakening is simply the absence of identification with the relative self, or the ego.
If we want to awaken, we have to break the pattern of identifying with our egos. So it makes sense that we’d need to eliminate or reduce the inputs that cause the output (ego/false-self identification).
Enter Social Media
The greater the number of relationships we have, the more our egos typically try and manage. For example, I show up (one type of ego identification) one way at work and one way with my fiance. (I’ll tackle integrating these in a separate post.) Social media increases the number and frequency of relationship-based interactions.
Social media presents a unique challenge to awakening because in addition to managing our social self (how we show up to others in the “real world”), we are encouraged to manage our online personas. While our online personas do interact and have real world consequences, they are completely fictional entities.
Going back to my third point from the above section, if we want to awaken, we need to limit the inputs (such as social media) that cause us to identify with our egos or false-selves.
Social media can have a corrosive effect on us. If we’re a product of our genes and our environment (which we are), then we need to be mindful of how we choose to structure our environment, which includes the digital landscape. The mind is constantly trying to synthesize and incorporate information it receives from our surroundings, so it’s worth considering what inputs we’re putting into our minds. While I don’t plan to quit using social media, I have put some guard rails on my social media use. First, I set time limits on my social media apps (quite easy with an iPhone) and second, I’ve decided not to open social media before 7:00am. Maybe these measures aren’t as extreme as they should be, but it’s a start.
If you’ve chosen to pursue a contemplative path, I’d urge you to consider how social media impacts your journey.