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Lions Roar : July 2017
How can we be more honest and thoughtful online? It’s a big question. There is the notion in Buddhism of right speech. The usual formula for deciding whether something is right to say is whether it’s true, whether it’s necessary, and whether it’s kind. I think those same principles apply to our communication online. If we can remember these things, we can have very authentic and open commu- nication. We run into trouble when one or more of those factors isn’t present—when people say things that aren’t true, aren’t necessary, or aren’t kind. There will always be people doing that. We’ve all seen conversations that spiral down into vitriolic exchanges. But each of us has the power to step back when we start getting sucked in and return to principles of how to communicate in a thoughtful and mind- ful way. Sometimes it is easy to lapse into unkind communication—to be unkind in a way we never would if we were talk- ing to the person face to face. So my practice is to imagine that whatever I’m writing, I’m saying it to the person face to face. Does your background in Buddhism inform, or dovetail with, your work on the News Feed? From the Buddhist point of view, we’re all inherently interconnected. One of our greatest illusions is the sense of an independent self that’s disconnected from the world. Facebook’s mission is about con- necting people, and connecting helps us break down that illusion and understand our inherent interconnectedness. At Facebook, I feel that I’m helping people manifest this sense of connection that is so easily lost, and is in some ways the root of so much of our suffering. Part of the magic of social networks is that you can read about the experience of people you would never be able to talk to directly, and try to manifest the inherent connection that we have to each other. Q&A The Middle Way of Social Media Sometimes it feels like the internet is dominated by aggression, lust, and greed. But there’s still hope, says DAN ZIGMOND, Zen priest and director of analytics for Facebook’s News Feed. PAIGEK.PARSONS Their problems are your problems. Their triumphs are your triumphs. Part of it is to really open yourself to these connections that are available and to take them seriously. Is it possible for Facebook’s algorithms to amplify those more sincere and thoughtful messages? I think it’s possible. We want to be a platform for authentic communication. We want to be a platform for all ideas. When people feel con- nected to others, that brings out their best selves. When people feel disconnected, their worst impulses often come out. I think that Face- book and the News Feed can be a very positive force for bringing out the best in peo- ple. Through the internet, the world is more connected. The world is more open. I think by and large that’s a very good thing. It means that more voices are heard. “Fake news” has become a hot topic lately. The internet means more access to informa- tion, but also more misinformation. Human interactions have always been fraught with risk and the possibility of miscommunication and hurt feelings. There’s always been misinformation and that doesn’t go away online. The internet and social networking have broken down barriers and reduced the cost of sharing information substan- tially. It’s easier to share the truth and it’s easier to share things that are misleading. That means it’s even more important to “Through the internet, the world is more connected,” says Zigmond. “By and large that’s a very good thing. It means more voices are heard.” LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 15