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The last decade has seen an explosion in the world of social media. What was in its infancy just a few short years ago has become a worldwide phenomenon spanning multiple platforms and millions, if not billions, of users. Many of us utilize one or more social networks daily including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, or Snapchat. These tools provide a fascinating way to share ideas, images, social commentary, news, and our personal lives with a larger, potentially infinite audience. They also represent a powerful means to influence and shape our worldviews and the larger collective consciousness.
But just what is social media, and what does it actually represent? When we take a closer look, social media is what I refer to as Ego Uploaded. According to Yoga and Vedanta, the ego is your separate sense of self or self-image; the seat of I, me, my, and mine that deeply identifies with the positions and possessions of life. Known in Sanskrit as Ahankara or “I-former”, the ego represents that side of you that builds boundaries and seeks security through control and an ever-present need for approval. So when I say ego uploaded, I’m referring to that aspect of yourself you digitally project into the online world.
Think about it for a moment—the images, commentary, links, videos, and articles you share—don’t they all, in one way or another, say, “This is me, and this is my world. This is what I think, what I feel, what I support or stand for, and what I put my attention on.” In this way, your online profile is really a projection of that side of your being; one that you’re putting out for the entire world to see. How you behave on social media can say a great deal about who you are and what’s important to you.
This is neither good nor bad—it just is. By its very nature, social medial taps into the ways in which you relate to others. Those relationships are often built around how your ego and your personal stories form connections with others.
With this understanding in mind, you should recognize that like any tool, social media can be used for the betterment or detriment of society. Therefore, as a user, you bear the responsibility of using it in an appropriate and beneficial way.
But how do you do that? How do make sure that your uploaded ego doesn’t get out of control? What follows are a list of recommendations for expressing your Highest Self while on social media. Rather than thinking of these suggestions as a rigid list of dos and do-nots, consider them guidelines for living from the level of your soul in the online world.
While communicating via social media have the intention to:
1. Share positivity. When people visit a social media page or app, it’s unlikely that they do so seeking negativity, rants, tirades, or comments that make them feel bad. Therefore, make the choice to be an uplifter while online. Share posts and comments that pick people up, rather than tear them down. Use social media as a forum to share peace, harmony, happiness, laughter, and love. There is undoubtedly more than enough negativity in the world today, so commit to counter-balancing the forces of anger and intolerance by bringing light and love into your online interactions.
2. Reflect before you post. This is simply a reminder to consider the consequences of what you say online. The Law of Karma reminds us that every action (uploaded content or post) creates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind, so it’s vital that you carefully consider the effects you are setting in motion when making a comment or posting a meme.
As has recently become painfully obvious for individuals in the public eye, what you post or Tweet becomes a permanent part of the online databank the second you click “post.” You can’t un-ring the bell, and even deleted content can be recovered and resurrected. Thus, before uploading, take an extra second to ask yourself, “What are the consequences I’m setting in motion with this post? How will it affect me and those that read or see it?” If the answer feels good and right, make the post. If it feels wrong, perhaps it’s time to edit or abandon the post entirely.
3. Commit to sharing the truth (accurate information). Many of us look to social media as a source of current events and world news. We also enjoy the act of sharing stories or articles regarding politics, social issues, or world events. Social media is a great environment to communicate such information; however, real danger exists in the spread of misinformation or false news. Consequently, you should strive to be vigilant in verifying the accuracy of the stories you share as well as being sure to not present a heavily biased or one-sided depiction of an event. Trust that your followers will be able to make an objective decision based upon factual information. Coming from your highest self means speaking truthfully without intending to mislead or manipulate others’ views.
4. Reel in your ego. When posting, remember to consider how you can help serve the larger world conversation regarding the issues you share or comment on. Know that your ego acts out of a need for recognition and approval. The ego says, “Everything is about me.” It loves social media as it gives it a powerful, world-spanning soapbox from which it can talk about itself, post countless selfies, and provide running commentary about every aspect of daily life.
As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t good or bad; this is just how the ego plays. To come from your higher self, you need to transcend the ego, resist the urge to make it all about yourself, and ask, “How can I help, how can I serve?” When coming from this space, the ego is put in a corner and the soul shines through our posts, letting you make a much more profound and helpful connection with your friends and contacts.
5. Commit to peaceful interactions with others. It’s important to understand that social media is a community of individuals expressing widely varied ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Those views will not always be in agreement with your own and when that happens, you must remain true to peaceful and compassionate exchanges with others.
This can be especially challenging when communicating online in that the anonymity and lack of eye contact often creates what psychologists have deemed The Nasty Effect. In this state, it is exceedingly easy to treat others as subhuman or ignorant, and quickly escalate a simple disagreement into a full-blown war. Online trolls thrive in this environment and it’s important that you make the conscious choice to disengage from hurtful discussions and commit to taking the higher path of wisdom and peace. Recognize that it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to change anyone’s mind on a flammable topic; conserve your energy, practice defenselessness, and move on.
Lastly, as a preventative measure, consider avoiding the comment threads on any given post entirely. Since many comment sections quickly deteriorate into an argumentative melee, choosing not to engage altogether may be the most peaceful option.
6. Share life’s most precious gifts. Social media presents you with a wonderful forum to share gifts that you find so rewarding to receive: attention, affection, appreciation, and love.
These simple acts carry great weight for the recipient and can open the door for receiving more of what you give.
7. Share quality, not quantity. We all have busy lives and no one likes being inundated with an endless stream of posts and Tweets that perpetually distract us from our daily responsibilities. Therefore, keep the quality of what you post high, while keeping the quantity of posts low. A few words, an inspirational quote, a thought-provoking article, or a beautiful picture can have a far greater impact on your social network than dumping tons of content on your followers they don’t have time to read.
Remember, social media is an extension of the ego; what and how much you post is a reflection of your inner self, and if you’re posting 20 to 30 times a day, it might be an indication that you’re looking for fulfillment from external approval rather than awareness of your true selves.
8. Practice the five Yamas. The first of the eight limbs of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is known as the Yamas, commonly translated as the “rules of social behavior.” When applied to social media, these guidelines provide an ideal framework for all our online interactions. While some of the Yamas are woven into earlier recommendations, it’s helpful to view them together as the core operating principles for our communication with others. As they relate to social media, the Yamas are:
These suggestions can go a long way in transforming your social media interactions from ego-based to spirit-based. Use them to come from the level of your soul as you play the fascinating role of a virtual being in an online world. But remember, social media can never replace the quality, intimacy, or soul-bonding possibilities of living and breathing real-time relationships. Know its limitations, have fun with it, and enjoy the dance.