Note: Adapted from content originally published in December 2011 on Awake, Alive & Aware.
Scientific research has tentatively suggested that how a person shows up online actually is very much like how they show up in real life. The same mannerisms and tics, values and qualities of character, personality traits, etc. And if you have lots of friends and are very social in the real world, you tend to also make many virtual friends, too. So we must give some credibility to the hypothesis than when we are talking about your “Online Presence” we are actually talking about a part of yourself — that part appearing, as the Integral Theorists say, in the Lower Quadrants. Put simply, your Online Presence is really YOU.
And yet there are few guidelines telling us how to navigate the waters of social media, blogging, website and to really claim our online “self” as truly part of us. There are few guides, in any case, that really grasp deeply the interpenetration of psyche and cyberspace, philosophy and Facebook, temperance and Twitter. So several months ago, I attempted my own guide for myself to follow in helping my Unique Self show up more often than my False Self.
1. I Will Not Distract Myself. I will not use social media as a distraction to keep me from doing more pressing work in the world. I will recognize that moment when it becomes a distraction because I will begin to feel that I am procrastinating on something that is more enlivening and rewarding but which requires delayed gratification.
2. I Will See My Online Presence as a Mirror. My Online Presence will be a unique reflection in the objective and intersubjective realm of my Unique Self. It already is; but by cultivating awareness of this feature of my life I can further develop the use of social media as a spiritual discipline. Since I am constantly loosening in identification with my ego and expanding in identification with my True Self, I can expect ongoing surprises and transformations in my blogging from time to time.
3. I Won’t Give Much Weight to Opinions. I will not forget that the Online Presence is not “me,” nor will I write from the vantage point of merely stating opinions. Online Presence is about enacting my Unique Self which is just as alive in its uncertainties as it is in its convictions. I will inhabit perspectives lightly, and not get fixed into flatland thinking. I will avoid criticizing others’ opinions by merely expressing a counter-opinion; instead, I may disagree, but it just might be by helping them (and me) to find a path beyond opinions.
4. I Will Always Add Value. I will endeavor to not pass along links without adding a value that only I can add at this particular time for this particular audience, whether through writing commentary or by selecting a link out of dozens or hundreds because it seems to carry some value for aiding in the development of a more whole, loving, and compassionate world. I will read and like links others have passed along when they move me.
5. I Will Not Avoid Controversy. I will not hide from controversy or strongly stating the judgments which arise within the wisdom held by my True Self, nor will I allow fear of others’ criticism or desire of others’ praise to dictate what I say. I will exercise discernment in whose words I choose to pass along with favorable notice, but will not “play politics” by writing with motives that are not owned.
6. I Will Speak My Truth with Kindness. I will pay attention to what I’m choosing NOT to write about, and let my words expess my Unique Self’s perspective by virtue of exercising wisdom in not repeating dubious gossip, slander, or idiocy. I will write with kindness. I will ask myself if the seasoning of snark and sarcasm is really my Full Self before sprinkling it into cyberspace. I will react less to news; I will write things that can help myself and others to create news. My Unique Self is a creative artist, not a robotic human news feed.
7. I Will Read More Than I Write. I will read the content of the links that I pass along, or let my reader know if I haven’t. I will reflect on how the topics I write about mirror my Full Self. If I notice that my interests are too narrow, partisan, or ethnocentric, I will stretch myself by endeavoring to notice when I am moved to write about topics outside my comfort zone and challenging myself to go there.
8. I Will Not Blog Asleep From the Neck Down. I don’t need to wear all my emotions on my sleeve; I just need to find a place where I’m comfortable that the person who is showing up online really reflects me, including my emotional side. At the same time, I will not retreat into a narcissism of writing only about my own feelings, my own backyard, and my own likes and dislikes. I will not be afraid to feel into the heart of the universe, and express the voice that comes from the joy and sadness, fear and anger, of the world’s soul.
9. I will Make Things Personal. I will get to know, at least a little, every one of my Facebook friends, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers … and recognize them as also part of my Full Self. I will read their Facebook profiles, if their privacy settings allow it, so I know who my readers are. I will respond to the vast majority of comments and inquiries with public responses, and engage some of them with direct messages.
10.I Will Forgive. When I fall short of my resolutions, I will go easy on myself and correct what I can.