Given the relative number of times I’ve encountered the observation, “She never spoke to me in school, why does she think I want to be friends on Facebook?” the karmic threads of Facebook and its effect on the collective conscious are compelling. Apparently a culture-wide blast-from-the-past sentiment, that question has been crooned, so to speak, into song. At the end of last year it was reported that 20% of divorce cases cited Facebook as a catalyst in the relationship’s demise, another factor spoofed in a Net-famous skit . It’s fair to say that Facebook has catapulted digital interpersonal relationships to a new high, or low, as the case may be, but why? And how can it be a tool for spiritual growth?
In the year and a half that I’ve been on Facebook, several people have remarked that the utility unexpectedly reopened old wounds, and in some cases, caused new ones. Presented as a simple Internet networking tool that does all the work for you, Facebook is and has been the hottest social media networking strategy to date. The Internet, in and of itself, has done an amazing job creating of the world a neighborhood pub, uniting old friends, passionate crocheters, Dolphins fans, and sellers with bidders. Some modern sages argue that the Internet is a digital manifestation of the collective conscious, a vessel we all contribute to, a result of our cultural foci and intellectual and spiritual development. As on no other networking site, users swarm to friend each other through Facebook, due to its suggestive relational viral connectivity via alma maters, places of employment, geographies, cousins. Unsuspecting users enter personal landmarks and interests, frequently not realizing that unless secure privacy is enabled, that information is used to match them with every other compatible user and to suggest them as possible friends. Adding one person you knew when is a singular connection spiraling out, not just to every person you know, but to every person that person knows, and so on. It is possible to be deluged with friend requests in mere hours, even with partial security enabled. The volume of the past surging into the present overwhelms those who aren’t ready, and it would seem, a lot of users aren’t.
Certainly I’ve known many people who reconnected fabulously with old friends. I count myself fortunate to have found people on Facebook that years of Internet searching didn’t deliver. However, for many, the wonder years aspect of Facebook is a reminder of a horrible time. The sticking point doesn’t seem to be that it merely reopens old wounds or brings up painful memories. Slogging through old hurts is one thing, but Facebook elicits a communal shadow reaction that many don’t foresee. A hyper-distilled family reunion, digital social display leaves many users feeling forced to confront old demons, not just face the demon, but do so with the demon’s posse looking on. Also, where many have enjoyed the anonymity of a raucous Internet social life, for Facebook to work as intended, you have to be honest in the personal data you feed it. To that end, some have pioneered into lifestyles and experiences that are upsetting to those still at the old stomping grounds, or to employers or potential clients. And then there’s the base embarrassment in friending Aunt Bee, who’s scanned your adorable fifth grade yearbook picture for the world to see…
Who sees what of you is one thing. What you see of others is another. The foremost insight Facebook gives into others is through status updates. Some use this blurb as an opportunity to keep others abreast of their morning coffee selection, what film they saw, or how they feel about sitting on the front porch. Some users are decidedly candid, sharing intensely personal insights. All of these are perfectly fine, though I often wonder if people considered that every status update they enter alters the collective consciousness of the planet, if they would say something more authentic? Because it does. If more people observed such, perhaps their updates would more their soul’s words rather than their ego’s. No contention, mind you. I like to know if my savvy friends think a film sucks, or they posted some gem about our healthcare system. But if the Internet is a manifestation of the collective conscious, and Facebook is its most prolific platform, could we improve how we thrive here if we chose to make social networking a more spiritual experience?
The thing about Facebook is that for it to be a social networking success, it demands radical honesty, as does spiritual growth. Indeed, that honesty can be selectively doled, based on privacy settings, interests entered, and the choice not to friend. Even in that closed scenario, I’ve known people whose pasts were still skillfully unearthed from the bowels of Facebook by some haunt, throwing them into a moment of panic. I think it is in that moment that the real life of Facebook thrives, not in the choice to friend or ignore, the celebrity who friends you, or the smackdown you give your old boyfriend. Certainly those things can be empowering and bring closure to karmic patterns. I think the real power of Facebook is that it’s a cutting edge, worldwide awareness, within which the Universe holds up a mirror, as we all know it does from time to time, making sure we really do know where we stand on the trials, paths, and joys of our lives. We can look into the bytes of our past and make an empowered choice based on the free will of our soulful present.