Thursday, September 17, 2015

Practice Digital Mindfulness: Day 15: Mindfulness Challenge


Of all the mindfulness practices I’ve observed so far, this one is the hardest and poses the greatest temptation.

Not completely, of course.

I am well aware of the dangers posed by the big Web and have never uploaded my family’s pictures on any social media site.

In the early days, I used to blog about my children’s antics but now I do so only if it is absolutely necessary. They are older now and I respect their right to not have their personal life thrown open to the entire world.

I myself have always had a phobia of having my picture taken so there are very few photographs of mine, and no selfies at all, littering the Internet.

Footsteps on the sand get blown away by the next gust of wind. The tracks may be completely obliterated by the next wave that rushes over to lap at the shore.

But digital footsteps are forever. Long years later, they can return to haunt us.

An expert hacker could re-create our entire life online, putting together the digital crumbs of your past in a way that can bite you, causing serious embarrassment and distress.

While I am wary of posting anything online, other than sharing my blog post links, stray thoughts of my own or something particularly inspiring written by others that I feel compelled to share, I have no objection to checking out what others have shared on their walls.

And that is a problem.

A Like here, a complimentary or sympathetic comment there and before I know it, a half hour and more has completely eluded my grasp.

Gone forever. With nothing to show for it.

Like Alice we are sucked into another world, but unlike Alice, it isn't always a Wonderland.

Each time I try to abstain from Facebook, I rush back, as though pulled by a powerful force.

My reasoning: What if I miss something earth shattering that someone has posted?

And it is not as if the pull comes only from a computer. Between the PC and the smartphone and other devices, we find ourselves drawn to the online world several times a day.

Besides checking into social media sites, and the web sites they lead us on to, where we get lost reading about all kinds of things ranging from life in the universe to the gossip in the lives of the rich and famous, not to mention apps that promise to keep us well connected, we have to contend with our inboxes. Most of us have more than one email id. And if you are anything like me, you've subscribed to a hundred newsletters and bulletins, and you must remain in control of all of them.

Mindfulness urges me to recall how much of what I read on social media this past week, month or year has had that kind of cataclysmic impact of my life, and I can’t think of any.

It drives the point further home by asking how my own life and those of million others managed in the years before Facebook forced us to become gawkers at one another’s peepholes.

It asks us to pause before each new tab or window we open. Do we really want to go there? Down that labyrinth, into wherever it leads us? Knowing that when we return, this moment will have been long gone?

Knowing that the distraction, and the vast amounts of information, will do nothing to create a sense of wisdom for us.

Knowing that it will create a strange sense of disquiet about us.

For my part, I am going to set some time limits for the time I spend online. When the alarm tells me my time is up, I will dutifully shut those windows and return to the real world, because there is much to see here and much to do too.

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