Is it possible to use technology like facebook and google mindfully? In a recent talk [http://tnhaudio.org/2013/11/16/horse-technology/] just before the 90 day winter retreat began in Plum Village Thay says retreatants have no permission to go out from Plum Village, not even on the internet. They should only use a collective email address so people are not checking their personal emails and they should not use facebook. He mentions although it is neither good nor bad, there can be more negative than positive effects from using it, and we lose a lot of time. It is a question mindfulness teachers pose regularly, because the internet and facebook are means of reaching a wider audience but they can also be incredibly addictive. I am aware of the irony of this question, as I heard the talk over the internet and it is over the internet that I often receive Thay's wisdom as his Dharma talks are streamed online.
What I am hearing from Thay's talk is we need to use the internet responsibly, being aware of whether it is watering positive seeds within us or negative; whether it is bringing us happiness and joy or feeding our seeds of loneliness. Does it help us to come back to ourselves or are we consuming technology in order to avoid our suffering? These are really powerful points to consider.
For myself, facebook is a means of keeping in touch with people who are geographically distant and I often find stories or poems that other people post which I can also pass on to my Sangha and other interested parties. However, I have noticed recently I often use it to see what other people are posting without posting anything myself. Is this just wasting time? Also, am I really keeping in touch with people by looking at their statuses and photos? Or is that just an idea that keeps us returning?
There definitely are positives to facebook, and one is that I have access to a group of worldwide practitioners following Thay's tradition and I can ask them questions, read what they are sharing etc.
Thay's talk has made me reconsider my use of facebook, and certainly made me aware that I go onto it each morning as part of a routine of checking emails, and I don't think that is necessarily useful. So I have decided to monitor my usage to the end of the year by only using it every other day and seeing if that makes a difference. If we are using facebook addictively then it does not water positive seeds.
Something else I have recently introduced onto my computer is Stillness Buddy [https://stillnessbuddy.com/return-to-the-present/] which has pop up boxes every so often (you can regulate yourself how often) to remind you to stop and breathe, be mindful and also get up from the computer and walk about a bit! There is an option to choose quotes from different teachers, so sometimes the box will have a quote from Thay and sometimes his picture! What a joy it is to see his face in front of me!
What I intend to do is shine the light of mindfulness onto my usage to see what it shows me. I'm sure it will be revealing! :)