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What Would Sid Say About the Facebook Changes?

Before Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment he was a confused twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a spiritual life. Each time in this column we look at what it might be like if a fictional Siddhartha was on his spiritual journey today. How would he combine Buddhism and dating? How would he handle stress in the workplace? What Would Sid Do? is devoted to taking an honest look at what we as meditators face in the modern world.

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I’m getting creeped out by the new facebook.com format. It’s like they are tracking and reporting everything I do now. What would Sid say about the facebook change? – J.D.

 

I imagine our friend Sid would have a great deal to say about the changes to facebook. The first thing that comes to mind is something along the lines of “Who cares? Go practice.” While I use face book pretty frequently, I have never tried to convince myself that the time spent on the website is time spent cultivating mindfulness and compassion. In its most basic form, for me and I’m guessing for others, facebook is a distraction from the here and now. I could go on at length debating how to bring mindfulness and compassion to facebook but that’s not the question at hand.

There is a slogan that has stayed relevant for years within the Shambhala Buddhist community: “Don’t just do something, sit there.” In other words, if you’re engaging in facebook you’re likely clicking over to the site to just “do something” as opposed to entering into that activity with any real clear motivation. It’s like you are specifically taking time off from mindfulness. If that’s the case in your situation, and you dig mindfulness, note that in a non-judgmental fashion. Then go do something that can be a stronger basis for cultivating the qualities you want to see more of in your life, like sitting practice. We would live in a changed nation if everyone sat shamatha meditation for the same amount of time each day that they sat in front of facebook.

In terms of the changes to the site specifically, I think Sid would point out the reality of impermanence. Things change all of the time. You and I are changing right now. As you read this, both of us are getting older, our mental states are shifting, and our senses are taking in new sights and smells.

Now that it is fall we are surrounded by reminders of change. When just a few weeks ago the trees were filled with green, now leaves are turning colors and falling to the ground. Meanwhile, all of our friends, family members, and our romantic interests are morphing. They are constantly evolving globs of body parts that age and grow or shrink, experiences that are cultivated, and emotions that flow through them. In the midst of constant reminders of the reality of change, why would we expect facebook to remain the one permanent thing on earth?

The final point I think Sid would express is that we often turn to facebook to escape from positive behavior. We might take some time to envy our friend’s vacation pics, or stalk an ex, or silently judge the goings-on of others. I could be wrong here, but I believe that when people say they are worried about facebook reporting their activity there’s an underlying tone of them not feeling good about the activity they are engaged in.

There’s an old saying that might relate to this situation: “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.” In this case, I think Sid’s advice would be that if you don’t want people judging your activity, don’t engage in that activity.

Of course, you can change your facebook settings or not visit that website anymore. It is, after all, just one site in the midst of billions. Like all websites, we need to be clear about why we visit it, what we want to get out of it personally, and keep sight of how that particular motivation fits in with the larger motivation for how we want to live our lives. I wish you luck in adapting to these changes, and hopefully we can all learn to engage this site and others in a way that promotes mindful and positive behavior!


Lodro Rinzler's new book is available for pre-order on Amazon.com by clicking here

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