Saturday, August 1, 2009

Taking a Twitter Ego-Trip?

In my blog on Social Media as a Woman's World, I mentioned the shift from considering social media as a standard marketing and self promotion platform to making a commitment to active participation and building relationships.

I still think that this is where Facebook and Twitter are taking us—the well known concept is "don't sell the dogfood, talk about dogs", and when we share our ideas and passions about dogs then out of that community a sense of connection, growth and well being can develop which is really powerful.

On the other hand, as we all know, a big part of Twitter and Facebook, is just people telling the world what they're doing and how great it is.

I may get in trouble here, and I am certainly open to comments, but there is a fine line between sharing something of deep interest to yourself, your art, your passions, your ideas and interests, and talking about the fabulous parts of your life is in a way that may convince others and yourself of your importance.

When our use of social media crosses over into this "I can top what you're doing" area, it becomes, I believe, what Eckhart Tolle calls "compulsive doing."

He describes in his books how the ego is constantly trying to be first, to be better, to be more, and how this is such a trap to any peace of mind, because anything you achieve in this state is so transitory.

This kind of grasping is an automatic escape from your conscious self and any effort to be mindful, present and aware, and to listen and respond to the real concerns of others around you.

How many people do we know or see that make a show of how busy they are – frequently as an excuse for not keeping one commitment or another?

I suspect that this treadmill of constant achievement is a big part of what led to the financial meltdown and literal "slowdown" that is taking place today. It is an absolute requirement that people finally take a deep breath and consider what is really important in life.

This was brought home to me by an experience I had during the past couple of weeks.

There is a person who had been on the periphery of my circle of acquaintances whom I finally met at an event, and we spoke for a fair amount of time.

About a week later, I saw this person and our eyes met as we approached but there was not the slightest recognition in their eyes, and we did not acknowledge each other. I had been on the verge of saying hello but pulled away.

Immediately I began thinking about other similar experiences where I had met people on more than one occasion, and they had acted similarly, and I had judged them as either being rude or oblivious.

Then a few days later this person friended me on Facebook.

Now I reexamined the situation and decided that I could have easily lifted the veil between us and spoken up, and reached out to this person, rather than expecting the opposite.

The bottom line is that we were both unconscious in our own way, and in many ways in the grip of a set of fears, not the least of which was being overlooked, being insignificant and probably most important, being completely wrapped up in our own drama and not open to other influences. We were both "busy".

My ego had made me right as I judged our encounter.

But we were both wrong—actually I may have been more wrong because at least I was present enough to recognize this person and I pulled away.

The same thing happens online.

Some of us broadcast on social media. We ego trip on Twitter and Facebook. But more and more people are learning to engage—to listen and to respond—and even in what some men like me may perceive as idle chatter, this channel is opening up between people as they share things of personal significance.

Of course, no one really knows the motivation behind someone else's post or update, just as no one knows the motivation behind the blank look.

And we can post online and go a long time without acknowledgment, and then the sheer amount of chatter and information can easily overwhelm us. We can feel more isolated as we begin to think we're alone in this vast sea of information where everyone else is connected.

That's the fear again.

The alternative is to participate openly and without expectation of immediate reward or gratification-- which the "experts" tell us is the essence of social media.

Can we truly feel community through an electronic device? I'm not sure and I'm still inclined to view the online world as a conduit for something more "real"—connecting in person (not romantically but humanly).

But if we pay attention to what others post, and our own reactions to it and the motivation in our own online efforts--we can make some amazing connections, not the least of which, to ourselves.

We can begin to observe our own fears and motivations and perhaps grow beyond them, evolving from a space of service rather than the fear that separates us from one another.

On a more mystical or philosophical level, I recently tweeted "What if everyone followed everyone? Then there would only be one Mind—the meaning of Twitter?" No one responded. Oh well.


David Weedmark said...

Tome, this is a very engaging article. It is for me, in itself, a living example of what you have described. I met you by chance today via Twitter.

Before the internet, some of my closest relationships were with people I had never met: authors of books, many of whom have long since passed. Particularly those brave enough to write of their deepest thoughts and experiences, and allowed me to reflect and vicariously participate in their journeys. Today, as a poet and an author myself, I understand that the few who have read much of my work know me better and perhaps far more intimately than the majority of people who see me face-to-face on a daily basis.
The relationship between a writer and a reader is necessarily a one-way street, in any medium. What I find most exciting about Twitter is that it gives anyone the possibility of such a relationship with anyone else, regardless of whether or not a dialogue develops, or a friendship develops from that.
I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestion that "we can make some amazing connections, not the least of which, to ourselves." And that we can each grow from these experiences in a way that a handshake at a party or a nod in an elevator rarely would afford us.

Angela Lewis said...

I also focused on your observation "we can make some amazing connections, not the least of which, to ourselves." Blogging in particular is a way of coming to grips with your thoughts and self-development, as well as sharing, engaging and collaborating.

Tom Bunzel said...

I have only recently learned the value of self expression to personal growth. It's an integral part of Maslow's need for self actualization, and as you said, blogging is a major component of this initiative for me and apparently for you as well. We are indoctrinated with the need to seek mass recognition when we really need quality connection.