A friend said to me recently – ”Oh, I read this really interesting article on Facebook.” Then she hesitated, and grimaced, and continued with her eyes slightly lowered – ”Yeah, I know. Cringe. Facebook”.
Uh? So what, my dear. Why the shame?
People at one time used to be this dry and disapproving about masturbation too, before finally we grew up and admitted that most of us do it. Why the silly modern taboo?
There is a snobby consensus emerging of a Hierarchy of Digital Interactions, that few are questioning. At the top we have business, selling things and official work which is deemed wholly respectable, especially if one is making money from such. We move then through a murkier, private, middle-ground of streamed movies and video games where no-one can know of our supposedly time-wasting predilections. And then at the filthy bottom end sensible people agree we find social media, coming in just above deviant porn and the dark web in terms of shame. This seems prudish and narrow-minded to me.
Sure, there are bad aspects to all of digital life, but guess what, shit happens on the school bus everyday, some people are also assholes in real time and our mundane lives are often clogged by inevitable and meaningless habits and distractions.
Social media provides a modern digital mask, and it can be used and abused like the powerful ancient art of the mask. Masks also reveal truth, and have long been used just for that. Unless we are using every spare moment to be utterly awesome, or wandering in the forest, swimming in the sea or finding the cure for cancer then to be snobby about entertainments and occupations seems inane.
Diogenes, Jung, and Einstein would all quite likely have used social media if they had the opportunity. Why would they not, when it holds the possibility of being the free-state, open-source, modern Gutenberg Press? We do not have to ask permission from authorities anymore to publish. The ideas of Tesla might not have been lost had he been able to upload his theories to the cloud. They might have been suppressed even so, but that happened anyway. As for data mining, and loss of privacy, I reckon shove our rebellion and crazy ideas in the faces of whoever watches. Let them know we watch ”them” too.
There is an old tradition in Tibet about Termas. These are sacred teachings that people like the great sage Milarepa might have written after personal realisations or enquiries, which were then hidden away in nooks and crannies in caves and inaccessible places to be discovered at some later date by people seeking them. They constitute a Tantric lineage of revelation at the appropriate time. Though there is a large amount of dross on the secret walls of Ethernet caves, yet still we never know when something of worth is stumbled upon, something that may save a life, or initiate a serious path of self-enquiry. We never know when we may be in dire need of inspiration. Personally I have learned many interesting, inspiring, helpful, weird, and challenging things because of social media.
What of my friend? Well, as a result of reading that ”silly” article on Facebook, written by some anonymous faraway person, and shared via the magic of the ether, she went immediately to her closet and whittled it down, so that she had 2 bin bags of clothes to bring to the charity shop, and now she stops before she buys something and asks herself ”Do I REALLY need this?” Win, win, I reckon.
Must we wait until some day in the future when the consensus is that everyone does it, it’s fine or at least neutral and no particular harm to our health, it may even sharpen our prowess when it comes to ”real” life action, and if done in moderation, then no, we won’t go blind, grow hairy palms or become dribbling lunatics because of it.