Social Media and the Wickedness of Minds

By on Dec 6, 2015 in The Unruly Ascetic

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Despite the fact that it makes me social media awkward, I am so grateful that I didn’t grow up with Facebook and Instagram and internet blogging. For some people social media is fun.  I guess they like the opportunity to share and the feedback they get from it.

For me, it’s stressful:

What if people don’t like me?

What if I don’t look as good as everyone else?

What if someone doesn’t get my sense of humor?

WHAT IF THEY DON’T LIKE ME!?

easier just not to ask too loudly what people think.

 

I am beginning to realize that NOT asking what other people think is really old-fashioned.

I am also realizing that not being overly concerned with what other people are doing is the old lady in me too.

 

People write a lot about the dangers of social media and how it creates body image problems, FOMO, and general unrealistic standards for life. There is a lot of blame thrown around for how we tend to be hard on ourselves when we don’t look like someone we admire, or if we don’t have a life that feels as exciting as someone else’s looks.

Whose fault is it?  The people putting their lives out there on instagram and video blogs?  The advertisers who photoshop even the most mundane adds? The people looking on and bothering to compare themselves in the first place?

There is a simple answer: it’s everyone’s fault.

The simple solution: we can’t control everyone (and blaming rarely helps), but we can try to control ourselves.

I have read a number of articles essentially beauty-shaming aspiring Yogi(ni)s for publicly broadcasting their prowess in asana. It sounds like it is genuinely impossible to share something that looks impressive without being accused of self-aggrandizing misrepresentation. What is the motivation or intention behind these posts? Are they appropriate considering our cruel media culture?  Are they appropriate in the context of a Yogi sharing what is supposed to be a spiritual practice?

I don’t know.

and most of the time, I don’t care.

I do my practice in the morning in order to get to know myself better. I am far from experiencing some kundalini awakening that makes me sing to birds and not need to eat.  All I can do is look at my own grumpy mind and try to figure out where I am today.  It’s nobody’s business but mine. Sometimes I share my experience with friend or students as part of the naturally ongoing discussion of the practice. Sometimes my mind gets really turned around, so I write blog posts. This is all very manageable for me.

Despite what I do to protect myself from comparison, sometimes the tricky mind shows itself when I pick up my phone after class and scroll through instagram (I’m brand new to Instagram, one post deep).  I see an acquaintance nailing a move that I’ve been brooding over for weeks.  I see a friend in a bikini on a tropical beach.  I see a neighbor’s adorable little babies (or more realistically, puppies), and I feel like I’m a step behind.  I’m not where I want to be!  I want to be where THEY are! A week ago I didn’t even know they were doing those things. A week ago I wanted none of that, but now! I want all those things, sick moves and awesome working vacations and little loves to cuddles! and that’s not the reality of my life.

I can only work so hard physically, and then my body has to rest. I don’t want to injure myself; I’ve done that enough. I can’t take working vacations for the foreseeable future; I’m starting a business and a program of my own and those things require stability and commitment.  I can’t offer a home to cuddlies (dog OR baby) right now; I wouldn’t have the time or resources to make them truly comfortable.

and in thinking about all the reasons that I am NOT where my friends are reminds me of all the reasons why I AM where I am… and those reasons are exciting and magical and grounding in the focus and dedication they require.

So back to my point, I am glad I didn’t grow up in the age of social media.  I am glad I got through college before I got a facebook account.  It didn’t occur to me to worry about what anyone else thought before I was 25.  Life is tough enough without feeling like someone else it doing it better.

At the end of the day, I seek contentment in my own path.  I work hard toward all the things I want (the acrobatics and the picket fence) without considering how far ahead or behind I am. The danger is in the comparison, not in the sharing. It is not possible to fall behind or to get ahead.  You can only be where you are and where you are meant to be.  Working toward our goals is the only thing that will bring peace in the world of comparison.

If I work hard, I can achieve anything that I need. I truly believe that. It is just going to happen on its own schedule. I know that anything is possible, if I am sincere and honest enough, which makes it pretty easy to work with Sutra 2.33.  Be happy with the friendly, be inspired by the virtuous, have compassion for the sad. Lastly Patanajli lists the “wicked” or “evil” and they are to be disregarded.

What a relief!

Next time you, or a friend, or an opinionated blogger, hops on instagram and wants to beauty-shame, advancement-shame, gregariousness-shame some happy yogi looking for mutual support, we can be reminded of the last lock and key. Maybe they are wicked in their intention and we are encouraged to ignore them, but maybe the mind is playing wicked games on us, creating comparison where none was intended, and that wickedness can be disregarded as well.

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