The power of social media to change lives

I was having an interesting conversation the other day with someone who questioned me about the seeming contradiction within the Mindful in May concept. “How do you reconcile this tension between supporting people to be mindful but engaging with social media as a way to convey your message?”

In my mind, this is not a contradiction but rather the precise reason why initiatives like Mindful in May are so timely. At a time where we are answering texts, emails, Facebook messages, and tweets all from the palms of our hands, the demands on our attention are becoming unsustainable.

Linda Stone, ex-Apple executive and thought leader, describes the phenomenon of Continuous Partial Attention – a state in which we are partially attentive, continuously.  “It contributes to a stressful lifestyle, to operating in crisis management mode, and to a compromised ability to reflect, to make decisions, and to think creatively. In a 24/7, always-on world, continuous partial attention used as our dominant attention mode, contributes to a feeling of overwhelm, over-stimulation, and to a sense of being unfulfilled. We are so accessible, we’re inaccessible.”

Since signing up to Twitter a year ago, I have experienced both its extraordinary capacity to open my mind to new ideas and the insidious way it can intrude into my life.

However, bringing mindfulness to the way I use technology has enabled me to notice the moments where I have tapped on tweets in the Twitter steam, like a lab rat tapping on a lever for cheese.

With this awareness, I have been able to consciously reassess my relationship with technology (in good moments) and create the necessary boundaries to ensure it adds to – rather than subtracts from – my quality of life. Admittedly, it can be a struggle – a little bit like meditation itself.

Social media used mindfully, enables us a gateway to finding free, world-class education (like UDEMY), inspiring conversation, and innovative campaigns like #swabforamit which harnessed the power of the network to solve a medical problem (finding a bone marrow match for a leukemia patient). As Ray Kurzweil, American scientist and futurist highlights, “a kid in Africa today with a smartphone, has more access to information than the president of the United States had 15 years ago.”

In less than two weeks, the power of social media has allowed a virtual Mindful in May community to form. That community raised enough money to build a well that will bring clean, safe drinking water to a village of 250 people living in the developing world.

 

There are benefits and concerns around the social media revolution. However, it is heartening to know that if used with good intention, it can support like-minded communities to develop allowing for rapid, collective contribution to the world.

Here is a heartwarming clip that reminds me of the power and possibility of connection that exists in our world today. It highlights the beauty that can arise when childhood naivety meets the power of our super-connected network at the right moment. All it takes is a few mindful clicks on the keyboard.

 

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