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Lions Roar : May 2019
THERE’S A QUESTION that’s being debated a lot these days—do we as Bud- dhists have a moral duty to quit Facebook or is it possible to practice right conduct in the middle of a fake news feed? Two years ago, I thought I knew the answer. Blindsided by the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I suddenly saw this once mundane timewaster as an evil menace. Facebook magnified our delu- sions, I thought indignantly, while propa- gating the lies and hate that eroded our social fabric and threatened democracy. The stakes were high and my verdict was swift. KAREN MAEZEN MILLER is a Zen Buddhist priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. Her books include Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden. ISTOCK.COM/MATTJEACOCK “Get off Facebook. Permanently,” I wrote on Facebook before sanctimo- niously shutting down my account. The world was aflame in a digital war, and I believed that the only conscientious thing to do was object. It didn’t help matters that the other side seemed to be winning. I had to admit that I was partly respon- sible for my disillusionment. Because I was anxious over the pending election, I had hidden posts from vocal friends whose opinions differed from mine. It was upsetting to find out how wrong people were! Although I could blame nefarious forces for manipulating our collective consciousness, I, too, had created a fantasy world by distorting reality with my self- serving deceptions. After all, you can’t be blindsided if you’re not wearing blinders. These days, the philosophical dilemma over Facebook is even more pitched. The company’s problems with privacy and propaganda should concern every user. It might be time to call it quits. Nevertheless, within six months of leav- ing Facebook, I was back, and for one reason: people. Facebook is full of folks with whom I want to connect, and I can’t seem to reach them any other way. Today, the question for me is not how I can put up with Facebook but how I can put Facebook to better use. To a practitioner, every question of “how” is answered by the eightfold path. Right speech, right conduct, and right livelihood comprise the moral and ethi- cal components of the eightfold path, but before you get to them you have to HEART & MIND 5 Ways to Make the World Better Through Facebook KAREN MAEZEN MILLER gives us tools to engage with our fellow Facebookers in ways that benefit us all. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 17 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE