Yes. Buddhists do use technology and they blog. This post is so titled because of the third principle of contemplative computing1, Be Mindful. We need to learn what being mindful feels like and to learn to see opportunities to exercise it while being online or using devices.
Buddhist monastics use the web to test their beliefs and objectives, that is their mindfulness, capacity for compassion, and right behavior. In the digital world it is easy to forget that we’re ultimately interacting with our fellow human beings rather than Web pages. Damchoe Wangmo recommends that you “investigate your motivation before each online action, to observe what is going on in your mind,” and stop if you’re driven by “afflictive emotions” like jealousy, anger, hatred, or fear.2 Choekyi Libby watches herself online to “make sure I’m doing what I’m doing motivated by beneficial intention.”3 Others argue that we need to bring empathy to technology, to have our interactions be informed by our own ethical guidelines and moral sensibility. If we can be a positive presence online, we can be an even better one in the real world. “Approaching your interactions with information technologies as opportunities to test and strengthen your ability to be mindful; treating failures to keep focused as normal, predictable events that you can learn from; observing what helps you to be mindful online and what doesn’t—in other words engaging in self-observation and self-experimentation—can improve your interactions with technologies and build your extended mind.4
The following Rules for Mindful Social Media are taken from Appendix Two of The Distraction Addiction:
Engage with care. Think of social media as an opportunity to practice what the Buddhists call right speech, not as an opportunity to get away with being a troll.
Be mindful about your intentions. Ask yourself why you’re going onto Facebook or Pinterest. Are you just bored? Angry? Is this a state of mind you want to share?
Remember the people on the other side of the screen. It’s easy to focus you attention on clicks and comments, but remember that you’re ultimately dealing with people, not media.
Quality, not quantity. Do you have something you really want to share, something that’s worth other people’s attention? Then go ahead and share. But remember the aphorism carved into the side of the Scottish Parliament: Say little but say it well.
Live first, tweet later. Make the following promise to yourself: I will never again write the words OMG, I’m doing doing x and tweeting at the same time LOL.
Be deliberate. Financial journalist and blogger Felix Salmon once lamented that most people believe that online content is not supposed to be read but reacted to. Just as you shouldn’t let machines determine where you place your attention, you shouldn’t let the words of others drive what you say in the public sphere. Being deliberate means that you won’t chatter mindlessly or feed trolls. You’ll say but little and say it well.
The remaining five principles of contemplative computing will be discussed in subsequent healthymemory blog posts. The first two principles were discussed in the immediately preceding posts.
1(2013) Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim. The Distraction Addiction
2Ibid. p. 219
4Ibid. Pp 221-222.