On my radar: The rise of Buddhist Geeks

2014-03-16 14:00

There are many occasions for wry smiles in the trend-spotting world as you watch the pendulum swing back and forth.

Surprisingly, trends are not always about the next big thing but sometimes a return to the centre after veering off on a misguided adventure. This pendulum swing is the most noticeable in social media.

Our multiple social media platforms have given us social connectivity but also the attention spans of lab rats.

Those omnipresent notification beeps and icons on our phones and laptops might seem convenient, but they intrude on our focus throughout the day.

We think we’re multitasking champions but the truth is we’re just distracted addicts waiting for our next social media fix.

But fear not, a cyber self-help industry is emerging. Digital Detox is not only a new buzz phrase, but an organisation in California dedicated to “finding and creating more balance in the digital age”.

The founders describe their business as a “slowdown, not a start-up” and their mission is to “inspire, empower and teach our generation how to create more mindful, meaningful and balanced lives, online and off”.

Their device-free retreats have hosted employees from companies like Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Google.

Similarly, Buddhist Geeks is not just a clever catch phrase but an annual conference that was launched in 2011.

It is billed as “one of the only events on the planet where you can participate at the intersection of Buddhism, technology and global culture”.

Wisdom 2.0 is another conference striving to help people balance their online and offline lives. Their most recent conference last month brought together participants with a common goal – “to live with greater wisdom, purpose and meaning while using technology in ways that create a more open and healthy culture”.

Clearly, there is a groundswell of collective consciousness and a desire to rein in our ill-advised journeys in cyberspace.

Even large technology companies like Google are starting their own “mindful-technology” programmes. Search Inside Yourself is an internal course for Google employees who are signing up because they feel the need to cultivate “emotional intelligence”.

Emotional intelligence is definitely what’s needed in social media.

The tide of abusive and toxic tweeting has been stemmed with what will prove to be a landmark court case in May when Peter Nunn (33) is brought to trial for sending tweets that were “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” to Stella Creasy, a Labour MP who was campaigning to ensure that women featured on British banknotes.

As the search for meaning in cyberspace grows, new social media platforms that promote “mindful sharing” are mushrooming. They are a reaction to “the Facebook eye”?–?the default behaviour of only posting the most fabulous moments of our lives.

We omit the daily grind of real life and overshare only the good times.

Blipfoto is a Zen version of photo-sharing platform Instagram.

Instead of posting pictures throughout the day, it invites you to share just one image daily to document your life. It forces you to think before you share.

The global movement, #100HappyDays, works along the same idea. Not aligned to a social media platform, the challenge is to post one picture daily of something that makes you happy?–?but you have to do this for 100 consecutive days. If you’re successful, you get a 100-picture compilation in an electronic photo album.

If Zen social media is not for you, there’s another platform that fills a darker gap. Whisper is an ingenious, fast-growing idea that allows you to air your dirty laundry anonymously.

It’s like a confessional in cyberspace and it’s very obvious people need to vent, confess and spill the beans in an era where facade is everything. It may not be Zen but it’s very therapeutic and is another pendulum swing in our digital lives.

Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. Fluxtrends.co.za

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