Recently I wrote a piece, “Communities or Commodities” questioning the self-promotional nature of social networks. We develop a compartmentalized view of our online relationships as if they are somehow detached from the realm of ethical behavior. In most spiritual traditions, there are calls to die to one’s self and one’s ego. Often, this concept is at odds with the very nature of Facebook or Twitter.
Rather than just complain, I thought I would offer some suggestions. Perhaps some of them are unrealistic. These are rooted in my own tradition as a follower of Jesus, but I hope people of any or no spiritual tradition would find them helpful as well:
- Take a Sabbath from yourself – Take a break one day each week from talking about yourself. Only post good things and promote the agendas of others. Share and retweet messages that make other people look good. Just make sure that doing so is of no benefit to you.
- Begin your status updates with “If God wills it…” or some variant thereof. Early Christians admonished one another not to brag about their plans for tomorrow because one never knew what the next day would bring forth. Admitting the tenuous nature of our plans acknowledges how little we have control of our lives, and in turn, makes us less controlling.
- Don’t slam with status – Jesus said if you have a problem with a person, go to them directly. It’s tempting to write messages that are hidden jabs at someone we know will read them. If you find yourself doing that – STOP. Hit the delete key and walk away from your computer and go spend time playing with the kids or the dog.
- Say nice things about people you don’t like – Jesus said to love our enemies and do good to those who attack us. Having a dispute with a friend? Post something nice about them. On a larger scale, rather than post your latest insult about Obama or Palin, write something you admire about them. You just might find it opens up a dialogue with those with whom you disagree.
- Pray your Friend List – People always tell me they don’t know how to pray. Right there, in your networking software, you have a tool to get started. Spend time each day saying a brief prayer for each person in your friend or following list. For those of you who are more popular, you may want to break it up over a few days.
I’m not so sure how good I will be at implementing these. Perhaps some of you have other suggestions to add to the list?