Let’s just call a spade a spade.
The online world is not the happy cotton candy type of place that we want it to be.
People say things in a really brazen way.
They say things which they would never say if they were talking to you in person, face to face, or even on the phone. It’s pretty intense.
How to Survive in the Online World
There are hints of anger in so many communications, particularly in social media.
There are hints of bullying all around, and even in email exchanges with people you know.
People adopt a different tone online, even if they know you well.
Even within the spiritual and the yoga communities, the online chats, the Facebook groups and the email threads, I have to say that it’s a little bit… Catholic (I grew up Catholic, so I can say this). By that I mean “my way is the right way. Your way is the wrong way.”
You can’t disagree with anyone kindly anymore online. People just blow up in each other’s faces.
So let’s talk about how to survive in the online world, because let’s face it:
If you want to engage in modern society you have to be leveraging the internet in some way.
I want to share how to use your yoga practice to keep your wits about you and thrive in a world which can have so many different opinions and so many different emotional charges.
Connect face to face
The first thing you have to do to survive in the online world is, if an exchange of any kind starts to get heated with someone that you know in person, take it offline.
Pick up the phone and call this person.
By the way, I also interpret texting to be somewhat of the online world because you can’t interpret tone, you can’t see someone’s facial expressions or mannerisms. It has that wall and is removed from human connection. If you really have a relationship with this person and you really care about that relationship going forward, don’t be cowardly.
At least text them and say “Hey, I don’t like the way this is going. Why don’t we talk?”, or “I really care about our friendship. I think it’s time that we talk face to face about this particular issue.”
I’ve had to do this with fellow yoga teachers, people who I’ve known for years, getting really heated and really nasty until I pick up the phone and call them. Sometimes we have to become a little bit more confident and secure in ourselves in order to lead the way. We can’t always expect that someone else is going to take the high ground on this. It’s always worth it, especially if it’s a relationship we have an interest in cultivating long-term.
Let it go
The second thing to keep in mind is for when you’re having an exchange that has an iffy tone and it’s someone you don’t know personally… Is it even worth your time? Do you know this person? Do you care to know this person? Maybe you don’t. Maybe you don’t care if you ever see them again. Maybe it’s a stranger online in a comment thread. Don’t waste your time. Are you really going to convince this person that what you need to convey is true, or is this just a useless conversation? Is this a distraction from the spiritual work that you should be doing?
It’s so easy to put off work and just have one more check of Facebook and end up falling into the black hole of exchanges that mean nothing long term. If this exchange is not going to make a difference in your life or someone else’s life, if it’s not going to be on your radar five years from now, leave it. Let it go.
Another part of this is trying to see through someone else’s eyes. How might your comment be received? Is your information really going to be received well? Are you just talking to hear yourself talk? What are your intentions?
Be true to yourself
People have to remember that the online world is much more revealing of your true nature than people think. The way you write and the way you comment requires you to check yourself – to stop, to pause, to think before you write or speak.
You can’t do this if you’re moving at 1,000 miles an hour and if you’re not paying attention to how your comments might be received. It goes back to that concept of satya (truthfulness). You have to be truthful but gentle with others. You have to convey information in a way in which they will receive it. Otherwise, you’re just spewing aimlessly. Really pause and check in before you hit post.
Also, when you’re doing this, are you being true to yourself? Are you acting like the person you want to be? Are you showing up in the world as the person you want to be, or are you just being busy? There’s a big difference. One is a state of yoga, one is not. You can either, per the yoga sutras, be in a state of attention or a state of distraction. You can’t be in both at the same time. Are you acting out of attention, or distraction?
Protect your energy
The fourth pillar of surviving the online world is knowing how to protect your energy.
You don’t have to read everyone’s email newsletter. If you unsubscribe from mine, no harm, no judgment. You don’t have to resonate with everybody. You don’t have to interact with every Facebook post. You don’t have to take in all the information. There’s just too much.
I recently heard a phrase about the way we’re drowning in information but starving for real knowledge. Maybe it’s time to curate what you take in online and only take in the things which make you feel empowered and conscious and informed, in a way that aligns with your highest self. That might mean unfriending or blocking certain people, cutting off email exchanges with people who you love because you know you have to talk to them in person.
Put out the energy you want to get back. Expect that when you write something people will see all of your true colors, because they can… if they’re a perceptive person and if they’re really paying attention.
Take a break
The last and most important way to survive in the online world is to take regular media fasts. Fasts from media of all kinds – email, social media, chats, everything.
Take a break. Let yourself be in real life for a while and do all those things that you don’t do when you’re spending time online. Look at the sky and see what it looks like. Take the time to really notice how cozy your blanket feels on your bed. Write these things down. Make a gratitude list. Get into your journal. Just unplug everything. Nurture your real relationships and strengthen your connection to yourself and allow it to grow.
I hope you’ve found some of these ideas useful for surviving the online world and I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas, let me know in the comments!