essays on suffering and awakening

An opportunity to see our reactionary minds

Social media exposes us to a flood of stimuli. To scroll through your feed is to be bombarded by a hundred different bits of information, all crying out: “you must pay attention to me.” For most of us, it can be a lot to handle.

I often notice myself blindly reacting to what I’m seeing. I’ll hit the heart button for one post, then watch my emotions turn angry as I read the next. I repeat this again and again as I continue along the endless stream.

In that moment, everything in front of me feels really, really important. This is why social media lends itself so well to outrage: it’s difficult to maintain a sense of perspective. My emotions take over, unequipped to distinguish the signal from the noise. I bounce from one feeling to the next.

Throughout the whole ride, I’m trying to establish some cohesive sense of self. I like the posts that prop up my sense of who I want to be, and doing so, feel a sense of accomplishment that seems an absurd sort of funny when I can muster a little mindful remove. Posts that conflict with my way of seeing things, though, shake my self-satisfaction, and leave me hungry for another hit of solid ground.

Silly, yes. But this is where so many of us are, and I think there is an opportunity, right here, to bring some consciousness to our experience.

What’s interesting to notice is that the experience of being whipped around by our thoughts and feelings isn’t unique to social media. Indeed, it’s how most of us live on a daily basis. But we’re so used to chasing ourselves that we don’t really think much of it.

But what social media does is dial up the intensity of our relationship with our egos to such a degree that we may actually be able to see what we’re doing. Spending time on Facebook or Twitter can be a crucible that shows us our reactionary minds—the overwhelming stimuli creating a louder version of what’s going on the rest of the time.

If we get lost in the weeds along the way, that, too, is just part of the practice.

Ian Cooper