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Buddhadharma : Summer 2019
20 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER'S QUARTERLY SEBENE SELASSIE: What kind of changes can we expect from our practice? That depends on so many factors: what our natural tendencies are, what conditioning we have experienced, what we are practi cing (and how, and how much), and every combination of these. In my life, change has been gradual, and along the way I have benefited greatly from practice, study, and the support of spiritual friends and teachers. Practice produces changes in how we relate to everything, including social media. Today, we are fortunate with a few clicks to have access to so many teachings and teachers. But never before have humans consumed so much data. I’ve heard that we take in five times as much information every day as we did in 1986—the equivalent of 174 newspapers. But unlike with newspapers, this informa tion is being generated by almost three billion people. Social media is a mirror for society, a reflection of our collective minds and hearts. We witness through our com puters and phones a stream of human thoughts and emotions, both wholesome and unwholesome—thoughtful commen tary and impulsive snaps, loving tributes and meanspirited takedowns, lol cat vid eos and racist memes. These technologies allow us to connect in incredible ways, but they are also intentionally created to be addictive, preying upon what the Buddha identified as the tendency for our minds to incline toward our habits. I hear Sebene Selassie is a teacher at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and a graduate of the Community Dharma Leaders Program at Spirit Rock many practitioners speak of addiction to their gadgets, email, and social media accounts. I struggle with these things too. We may find ourselves checking our phones obsessively throughout the day, even though we make time to meditate every morning. People post without mindfulness. Buddhists are not immune. This path is sometimes described as going against the stream; with the inter net, it’s like going against a tsunami, and the reactivity and narcissism you mention is part of this wave. We need to empha size more and more the importance of pausing in relationship to technology. I’ve cut down on my social media usage because I noticed how much time and energy it was absorbing in my life. Each of us is responsible for our own reactivity (and our reactivity to the reactivity). It can be disappointing to see that Buddhist friends and even teachers are swept up in these waters. I encourage you to notice what is underneath your expectations. It might be a longing for a full expression of the freedom and joy highlighted in the teach ings—can you appreciate that most of us are also longing for this but are not there yet? Are there social media accounts that inspire you? Are there those that continu ally disappoint? I have a practice of peri odically cleaning up my social media by unfollowing accounts that do not align to my values or that stream negativity; while doing so, I make sure to add accounts that provide insights and joy. Hopefully one day social media will reflect an awak ened society of wisdom and compassion. CLAUDINEGOSSETT