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Lions Roar : January 2018
HOT OFF THE PRESS social media is engag- ing in what Buddhists call “comparing mind.” This is exactly what it sounds like—comparing our lives, our looks, our achievements, and even our meditation abilities to others to see how we stack up. Everyone engages in comparing mind some- times, but in the world of social media, where people only publicize the rosy moments, the filtered pho- tos, and the happy news, it is particularly easy to think we are the only ones having a hard time. I remember one particular day of col- lege when I made the mistake of Googling a young woman with whom I was plan- ning a conference. Even though this woman was only a few years older than me, I found hundreds of articles she had written, awards she had won, and other accomplishments staring back at me on the screen. Tears streamed down my face as I compared it to what happened when I typed in my own name: Nothing. Nada. No results whatsoever. I am a nobody, I remember thinking, my comparing mind in full force. I will never be as accomplished as this woman. I will never amount to anything. I carried around this dreary view of my own worth all day, long after I had shut down the computer. Comparing mind starts from a place of insecurity. It rests on an assumption of deficit or lack (I’m not lovable, I’m not worthy) that then looks to the outside world to prove or disprove that flawed assumption. “If I am better looking than Lilly, I am good looking,” the logic goes. “If I have achieved more than Jim, I am successful.” The trouble with comparing mind is that, resting on that shaky foun- dation of insecurity, it is never satisfied. It never successfully answers the question of whether we are lovable or successful. Even if we come out “on top” in one particular comparison, there is always someone who and wait for the “likes” to roll in. I deeply understand the pull of social media. I find pleasure reading about the goings-on of friends and family who live far away, appreciate the notifications about events and interesting articles, and I like getting affirmation for my posts and photos. I am pretty certain, however, that I could obtain all of those pleasures in about one hour on the site per day, or less. What I do instead is spend hours of my life scrolling, getting lost in articles, comment conversations, and other people’s photo albums. Like staring blankly at a television screen, the endless scroll allows my brain to zone out from my life and float away. There is nothing inherently wrong with this zone out, but after a certain period of time, I notice that—like a junk food binge—I feel pretty sick. I feel alien- ated and lonely, exactly the opposite of the reason I signed on in the first place. There is a Zen chant that includes the words: “Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost... Wake up! Wake up! This night your days are diminished by one. Do not squander your life.” Every time I chant this, I think of the hours and days I have spent on social media. I think of the precious time I have squandered after I have checked in on my friends and loved ones, after I have checked my messages and invites, and after reading any interesting articles. The time spent endlessly scrolling. It makes me sad. It makes me want to be more aware, and to wake up from the social media trance and interact in real time again. One of the other dangers of too much WHAT NOW? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond Yael Shy Parallax Press; 224 pp.; $15.95 (paper) LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2018 74