I've been giving my use (ahem, addiction) of Facebook, YouTube, and now Twitter quite a bit of thought lately. I've gone through emotional cycles of distancing and reuniting with my status updates, wall posts and perusing pictures and videos. My conflict is that I have found social networking to be aiding my work, therefore fueling my addiction. I recently Twittered "researching HFCS's rise to small screen stardom" and I heard back from an unusual Twitterer claiming to actually be HFCS -- the substance. (Seriously: read my last post.) Need to find anything out? Post it and one of your "friends" will tell you in minutes! Isn't that awesome?
Philosophically I pondered: is claiming usefulness of social networking a projecting assertion to perpetuate my addiction, or does it have any merit? Did our grandparents have this same struggle over the television? Is it useful or a waste of time? In my contemplation I decided to subject my addiction to my areas of expertise (health and yoga) to see if I could come up with a solution.
Here are a few starter questions for self-reflection. If you answer yes to more than one you should probably read on for the Zen part.
Do you ever feel like freaking out on someone on Facebook, or Twitter?
Have you ever wrote not-so-nice things about someone or someone's photo or video on any social network site?
Do you find yourself spilling your latest psychological drama in your status updates or on multiple friends' walls?
Are you a mood-based social networker and with little control over your typing impulses?
Has anyone had to physically tear you away from your iPhone or blackberry when they are trying to have a conversation with you?
Ok, now that we've all been diagnosed with social networking rage it's time to do something about it. Let's get acquainted/reacquainted with the Yamas and Niyamsas, often referred to as the 10 Commandments of Yoga. They are the ethical precepts described in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as the first and second of the eight limbs of yoga. So basically we are supposed to pay attention to these before we do any downward dogging or social networking for that matter. Having proper ethics will rid us of stress, addiction, and madness, and also classy up your image.
Yamas: Precepts of Social Discipline (Do you think Patanjali knew FB was coming?)
Ahimsa: Non-violence. Not harming other people, oneself, or the environment. Not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
Social Network translation: When your BFF calls you a cotton headed ninny muggins on FB, resist the urge to smack back. Step away from your mobile device and take 5 deep breaths.
Satya: Truthfulness. Note that sometimes we may know our words are literally true, but do not convey what we know to be truthful. Satya means not intending to deceive others in our thoughts, as well as our words and actions.
Social Network translation: Stop thinking because you held restraint from calling your BFF out on their childish acts that you are "so much better than them now." Let it go.
Asteya: Non-stealing. Not taking that which is not given.
Social Network translation: Just because someone's status says they are out doesn't mean you can go to their house and raid the fridge. Text first!
Brahmacharya: Sexual responsibility. Regarding others as human beings rather than as male and female bodies. This includes not only sexual restraint, but also protecting our energy. For instance, by avoiding endless chattering with no clear purpose.
Social Network translation: Stay away from the teenagers unless you are one! Stop drooling over and posting skanky pictures of yourself and your friends. Rule of thumb: If you wouldn't show it to your Mom or Grandma don't post it or stalk it.
Aparigraha: Abstention from greed. Not coveting that which is not ours. Avoidance of unnecessary acquisition of objects not essential to maintaining life or spiritual study.
Social network translation: Taking pictures of you and all your fancy clothes, parties, and people won't make you happy. Well, it might for the moment but it won't last. Your friends like you because of who you are, not what you have. If they don't they aren't good friends anyway. Plus it makes you look like a cotton headed ninny muggins.
And now for the Niyamas: Precepts of Individual Discipline
Sauca: Cleanliness. Not only external cleanliness of the body, but attending to internal cleanliness such as avoiding the impurities of anger and egoism. Moderation in diet.
Social Networking Translation: If you spend the weekends in bed on FB, YouTube, and Twitter, take a shower. Don't get into fights behind your computer screen and put the Cheetos down.
Santosa: Contentment. Not spiritual complacency, but acceptance of the external situation we are allotted in this life.
Social Networking Translation: Don't be jealous of top Twitters and YouTube users. Be happy with you. You're awesome.
Tapas: Austerity. Deep commitment to our yoga practice.
Social Networking Translation: Not to be confused with tasty appetizers. Simply, practice yoga. Go to class, practice at home and meditate.
Svadhyaya: Self study. Spiritual self-education. Contemplation and application of the scriptures or sacred text of our chosen path.
Social Network Application: If you feel like you have a problem, you probably do. Think about it and work it out.
Isvara Pranidhana: Surrender of the self to God. Acknowledgement that there is a higher principle in the universe than one's own self. Modesty. Humility.
Social Network Application: How many pictures of you in your underwear do you need on FB? Do you have to Tweet every time you have done something you want to brag about? Think about shifting your social networking toward a purpose, other than serving and entertaining yourself (At least occasionally, we still have to have a little fun!)
Best name to call someone when angry: Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins. Repeat 5 times and your anger will turn into laughter.
Follow Tara Stiles on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tarastiles