Does Facebook ruin our Yoga practice?

I have had a Facebook account for nearly 12 years. I created it back in the day when online communication was an afterthought and although my friends were on it, we never actually used it. After all I lived in Brighton and was out most nights. Out talking to people, reading books, going to Yoga, going camping, going on courses, working, learning, being. I really didn’t have time for social media, it just wasn’t a thing. I had plenty of time to get on with my British Wheel of Yoga training and essays. I rarely looked at my phone.

When I first went travelling suddenly Facebook became important. It was a lifeline to my friends and family at home. It was a way of staying in touch with the people I met on my journey who I adored after just a brief time of knowing them. Simone, the beautiful Macrobiotic chef, Susan the actress, Brian and Robbie the American musician brothers, Robin my Australian soul sister and far too many others to mention. Plus all the connections in the Yoga world, and of course the opportunities to find out what was going on and where. And I have a romantic and deeply sentimental streak at times. I loved my Facebook community.

Later on though it became too much of a lifeline. In fact it reached the point in my days of overwhelm and overwork of me just pouring a glass of wine and going on Facebook when I simply no longer had the energy to engage with people face to face. The days of seeing friends regularly were over. Just working to keep my head above water was the priority but my need for connection didn’t go anywhere. Facebook was the place where I had my conversations, where I ruminated on issues, where I embarrassingly posted drunken declarations of loneliness or cheesy platitudes. I conducted romantic relationships on Facebook. And got into endless passive aggressive (or aggressive aggressive) debates on the Yoga Teachers Forum. Ironically the Yoga Teachers Forum makes Daily Mail readers look like a bunch of amateurs. The judgments! The Venom! And frankly the less said about the Great War that was the ‘Vegetarian Thread of 2016’ the better..

And so I realised all of this was not doing me any good and I put the wine down. I cut some of my classes. I started to sleep. I started to look after myself better. I had a good long think about who I wanted in my circle of influence and at night I put my phone on flight mode.

However I still checked my page daily. I still engaged in the dramas of people I hadn’t even ever met. I still had that vague sense of not wanting to feel left out, like a schoolchild. I think social media does have that energy about it. That energy of ‘Look what I’m doing! Look what I’m achieving! Aren’t I amazing? What have YOU done in contrast?’

The thing is when we gaze at the profile of someone on Facebook we are not seeing them as they truly are. We are seeing some weird parallel universe of their lives. A life where their skin is unblemished. Where they spend their days in restaurants with a whole bunch of other people having well documented ‘fun times’. A life where when shit happens, they don’t fall apart but immediately make a sage and noble statement about how these things happen and lucky for all of us that they can deal with everything with grace and courage. Cue the Greek chorus of 150 ‘likes’ and “Wow you’re amazing”! Because it’s all edited copy.

Facebook really is the opposite of Yoga. If Yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind and true connection then nothing about Facebook works with that on any level. It robs you of the present and takes you into a weird shared virtual consciousness. It ruins your efforts to live as a Yogi. It challenges your heart, your innocence. It tempts you into harming people (usually yourself) by pushing your buttons and aiming straight for those triggers. You can hurt people with throwaway comments, even if you don’t mean to. It challenges your honesty when you feel that you have to play a role, that your identity is at stake somehow. People may find your picture and troll you and that definitely messes with your peace. Ex lovers may stalk you. Or you may stalk them. You will waste hours reading rubbish articles. You will start being on Facebook as if its a companion. And its addictive. Its difficult to moderate. It also encourages all the reasons for human misery and stuckness listed in Yoga philosophy. That is to only identify with the parts of ourselves our ego loves, instability, sloth (!) and it horribly muddies the waters of our consciousness with drama, with gossip and all kinds of shit. Boundaries become blurred.

Suddenly Facebook has a very dark side. And I don’t have to write about how weird it is that everywhere you look everyone is glued to their phone. Everyone is in their own little universe where the ‘better’ version of themselves live. One of the things I love about my partner is that he doesn’t do Facebook. In fact he sagely pointed out to me that Hitler would have LOVED Facebook! What a perfect way to divide and conquer by gathering all this volunteered data. What a perfect way to dehumanise the masses. When you love someone you don’t just love them for the way they are at one moment in time, but for all their nuances and when you are constantly on social media true connection passes you by. If you even have two friends in your life that you would trust completely with your heart and soul then you are richer than anyone who is followed by hundreds or thousands of people on Facebook.

When I decided it was time for Social Media sobriety I had a brief and worrying little feeling of not wanting to be invisible. And then I suddenly realised how ridiculous that was. After all there is actually no reason for 900 odd people to know my every move. And as I love my life and what I do I actually have no reason to live vicariously. And there is nothing better than meeting people in life, of hearing their stories and true connection. True connection can arise when you’re comfortable with anonymity. How delightful to rediscover the mysteries of people. How beautiful to be in the silence of your own energy field instead of being like radio barking out whatever it picks up constantly 24/7.

And so I deleted Facebook from my phone. And last week I picked up 2 books, one I read cover to cover and the other one I made a good inroad into. I used to read at least one book a week and somehow the past few years have put paid to that. So I’ve reclaimed it. I’m experimenting with moderation but we shall see how it goes. I may need to kick it completely and suffer the withdrawal and then replace it with a better habit. Crochet perhaps. Or colouring in. Anything that restores my poor punctured concentration and replenishes it with the present moment.

I have come to the conclusion that Yogis don’t need Facebook. Not really. Because if you live your life from a place of love and trust then all you need to do really is to love and pay attention to the people in your vicinity even if thats not necessarily local. There’s maybe 25 people in my inner circle now, none of whom I need Facebook to reach. Maybe loving and trusting a smaller bunch of people is key to changing the world. Perhaps true intimacy can then become contagious. True intimacy is a potent drug. And Facebook dilutes it until theres really nothing left.

So, I’m disengaging with it. And if you are with me then join me. I shall be out walking in the countryside. And not posting pictures. I shall be having time away with my beloved and not being smug about it. It might take awhile to stop posting pictures of my cooking but I swear I will get there. My house is going to be redecorated and only the people allowed in will see it. Just like my heart got an overhaul too, and the same applies.

And that’s just fine with me.

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