“Your social media feed is already old if it’s not checked within 24 hours. Do we need any more in-your-face reminders about the impermanent nature of life? And then there’s the heavily filtered photos and carefully crafted profiles that seem like they’re waving the flag of maya right in your face.”
‘Spirituality’ and ‘social media’ are two words that don’t naturally sit well together for most people. In fact they would more likely be used in the same sentence only to point out the inverse relationship between the two in terms of popularity. But I’m here to put forth a very different view. I believe that social media, while it has wreaked havoc on human minds in many ways, also holds the potential to facilitate our spiritual evolution. Here’s why.
1) Knowledge at your fingertips
The most obvious benefit that social media provides to spirituality is the ability for people to have the most profound knowledge at their fingertips. Gone are the days when you would have to seek out a Himalayan shelter to pursue your spiritual path (though if you still feel inclined to do that, it’s also much easier now with Air BnB) and spend several years at the feet of an enlightened master. You can now stay on your comfy couch and join in on satsangs via live YouTube or Facebook broadcasts. Knowledge for which you would have had to walk through forests for days and days while begging for your food, you can now get in your Twitter feed while you have your lunch in the office.
2) Satisfy your desires and quick
People usually turn to the spiritual path once their desires are satisfied. As long as you’re hankering after material things, you won’t find the urge to turn inward. Social media, with the increased connectivity, makes possible the super-fast fulfilling of desires. Whether it’s pursuing a relationship or a career, social media makes your path swifter.
3) Focus on ‘you’
One of the oft-cited criticisms of social media is that it makes people narcissistic, with everyone becoming self-obsessed and crafting an image to project. But the way I see it, with each one focusing more on themselves, the days of idolatary and being a follower are gone. There is a natural encouragement to think for and express yourself. While only celebrities hogged the microphone earlier, now the stage is open to all.
Also, this same focus on self-image has the potential to help us realise just how much we, for the lack of a better phrase, ‘make ourselves up’. It breaks it down for us mechanically and we can see how we’re crafting our identities and portraying ourselves in one or the other way with the photos, comments etc. we share on social platforms. It brings home to us that our personalities are our own constructs – they are artificial and false.
Social media has made it easier for like minds to come together more easily. Does anyone suffer from ‘blacksheep in the family’ syndrome anymore? How can they, given the multitudinous avenues for people to interact on a global scale? Especially where spirituality is concerned, there is now a much greater potential support for you if you’re the only one you know in your daily life who meditates. A modern sangha (a group of disciples of a guru) is today mainly brought together by social media.
5) Get to the point, quick
Social media is fast. Attention spans have been severely afflicted. Very few people will read anything longer than a few sentences, and fewer still, anything longer than a few paragraphs. Similarly, the shorter the video the better. While the damaged attention spans are a casualty, what is good about the fast-moving social media engine is that you are forced to get to the point and quick. This ensures that people have less time for digressing, indulging and wasting time on anything that’s not crucial. A spiritual seeker should benefit from this because the life principle he/she most cherishes is the same (getting to the point in that case referring to getting to the essence of life, beyond the temporary distractions).
6) Highlighting impermanence and maya
Social media has starkly brought to our attention, the impermanence of the world we live in. Your social media feed is already old if it’s not checked within 24 hours. Do we need any more in-your-face reminders about the impermanent nature of life? And then there’s the heavily filtered photos and carefully crafted profiles that seem like they’re waving the flag of maya right in your face. One can’t help feeling like it is all an illusion when one sees supernatural looking landscapes in people’s holiday photos (the result of multiple Instagram filters) and the airbrushed good looks of friends and family. Snapchats that disappear as soon as they are sent are surreptitiously familiarising us with the intangible, in however a wayward way it may be.
7) Hello spontaneity
Social media rewards and encourages spontaneity. Life is spontaneous. Ergo, social media helps us be more in tune with life and our inner nature which is not reliant on techniques and tricks but is a spontaneous happening. Studied responses can only take one so far before they become cumbersome. While it is true that we must find that space between action and reaction and social media often appears to deny that space to us, it does on the other hand allow us to see how our reactions oftentimes are very spontaneous.
So all in all, while we can’t deny that social media has fuelled narcissism, shortened attention spans, increased desires and generally reduced mental wellness, I see great potential for using social media for the proliferation of spirituality. It just takes the right eyes to see that social media is in fact reflecting our lives back to ourselves and that if good hair can go viral, so can the Truth.