I use and greatly enjoy the social network, Twitter. It is a very simple and direct way to stay in touch with people and to share and find good content. There is a place for it in many people's lives, but it is somewhat concerning when it takes over our lives.
The folks at Mashable recently reported on a study by Crowd Science that reveals some alarming and telling information on how much tweeting and similar activities can begin to infiltrate more and more parts of one's life.
The study reports:
"One-in-ten Twitter users (11%) admitted to accessing social media while driving during the preceding 30 days, compared with just 5% of other social media users. And 29% of Twitter users said they had accessed social media from cars at some point in the past, compared with 13% of non-users."
Twitter users seem particularly immersed, with 17% users reporting in the last 30 days using social media from a toilet or washroom, compared to 12% of non-Twitter users. It is one thing, of course, to engage on a social network and use it, quite another when it starts using us, such that our attention is increasingly lost in our gadgets.
It reminds me of the following Zen story:
A renowned martial artist once went to visit a Zen master. The martial artist had spent years mastering his skills such that he was the toughest samurai in the land. He was an amazing swordsman and legendary for his ability to ﬁght numerous attackers. When he met the Zen master, the samurai talked about all the powers he had developed in his life, how he could defeat a hundred men in battle, jump on buildings, and perform other extraordinary feats.
He then looked at the Zen master and said, "I have told you all the powers I have gained. You are well-known as a great Zen master, but what can you do? What powers do you possess?"
The Zen master took a deep breath, and then responded, "I only have one power: When I walk, I just walk. When I eat, I just eat. When I talk, I just talk."
The issue is not with the technology, but how we use it. We can either do so skillfully and effectively, or use it habitually such that it becomes an addiction, distancing us from people and hindering our work.
Few us will renounce social networks, but we can find a balance with them, and follow the Zen lesson relevant for our time: "When driving, just drive; when pooping, just poop; and when tweeting, just tweet."
Though difficult in our time, doing so may not only help decrease the stress and sense of information overload we may feel at times, but could just save someone's life, since when driving we will have our attention where it should be: the road.
Soren Gordhamer works with individuals and groups on living with greater mindfulness and purpose in our technology-rich age. He is the author of Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected (HarperOne, 2009).