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Lions Roar : July 2013
was now a potential status update, and I would spend a lot of time formulating the most clever, attention-grabbing wording— a fairly universal trait of Facebook users. It was like looking at life through a camera. That distanced quality was increasingly incongruent with what I was trying to do in meditation practice. Last December’s shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, gave me a whole new angle on Facebook’s impact. One of the first things I did after hearing the news was to scroll through the News Feed. I wondered why I had this impulse. Observing my grief-stricken and terrified mind, I saw that I was looking for comfort from others. But what actually happened was that other people’s out- rage and anguish intensified my own. I was searching for a sense of connection, but as soon as I walked away from the computer, I was alone in my empty apartment. What I needed was physical comfort, a hug, to hold and be held by others. That Facebook cannot provide, yet I would return to it again and again, search- ing for what was not there. Daily meditation practice began revealing to me how living in continual distraction robbed me of so much. When I rested my attention on the breath and let go of distractions (thoughts about Facebook being one of them!), my mind felt restored, revi- talized, made whole in a very pleasurable way. I began noticing how my online habits were splitting my attention and reducing my quality of life. One time, I was toodling away on Facebook, my back turned to the family, when my four-year-old son came up to me to talk and cuddle. I told him to go play. Noticing this and similar instances, I made a rule not to use my computer unless the kids were in bed or at school. That was when I discovered the strength of my addiction. One day, while watching my kids at the park, I literally had to sit on my hands to keep myself from sneaking a peek at my phone. What I felt was, “The present moment is really boring in com- parison to what’s happening online. What’s happening online is more like a big, chatty, nonstop party!” In the middle of the night in early January, it hit me that, taken altogether—the repetitiveness, self-promotion, superficial sense of belonging, fractured attention, disconnection with those present around me, and my addictedness—Facebook was doing me more harm than good. I couldn’t wait until the morning to shut down that damn account. The first few hours after closing my Facebook page were mind- bending. My husband went onto his account to see if any trace of Sumi Loundon Kim remained. Nothing. For a few minutes, I felt like I no longer existed. There was no “Sumi” in the online ecosystem. I’m not sure what an insight into nonself feels like, but it seemed close. It was freaky and liberating at the same time. It felt so good, in fact, that a few days later I disabled Google Chat in my Gmail account because my eyes would constantly flicker over to the box to see who was online. I noticed how often I checked email on my cell, so I removed that function. A month later, I changed the texting aspect of my mobile-phone plan and now only use it for immediate, necessary transactions. It was quite interesting to observe the psychological effects of SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2013 28