Hyper–tracking & Self-Reification
I recently fasted for two months from social media and the news. I began the fast on a three day silent retreat by a forest lake.
At the end of day two, I wrote in my journal:
“Today as I walked the trails, I could hear and see each distinct thought.
I was thinking in my usual way, but this time my thoughts appeared as small phrases within a cavernous space.
It was easier to notice that ever present itchiness that seeks to locate and label my self:
‘Am I ok? Not ok? Terribly sad? Fine?’
There among the trees, my emotions were utterly quiet.
I immediately wondered, ‘Have I recovered from my trauma-filled fall? Is my grieving done, or is this more numbness?’
What would it be like to be present with my lack of emotion, without extra scrutiny?
Do I really need a verdict on how ‘I’ am doing?
A quieter self emerges, regards these thoughts with fondness.
The Buddhist practice of chod asks me to contemplate the habitual human tendencies of dag-zin and nid-zin, self-clinging and two-clinging–clinging to duality.
Today this nid-zin duality-clinging is tedious with its kneejerk questions:
‘Is this moment a good moment or a bad moment?’
‘Are things better or worse?’
‘Should I change what’s happening or leave it alone?’
Dag-zin self-clinging is even more tiresome. Constantly thinking from and reproducing the ‘I’ is exhausting.
Here by the lake, the sense of ‘I/me’ loosens, loses its appeal. This mirror water makes me yearn for silence.
I long to halt the ceaseless work to reanimate the me–all that internal chatter of ‘I want’, ‘I think’, ‘I feel’ pumps and shrieks like some sleepless steam engine.
But I cannot seem to stop tracking the me me me me:
‘How am I?’ ‘What am I?’ ‘What’s my mood?’
I pursue, push, pull and pummel my over-analyzed, over-decorated self.
This endless striving to reify my existence reminds me of the hypervigilance of PTSD and the hyper-tracking of social media.
When I visit social media sites, I sense something akin to the insatiable and obsessive, hope and fear dynamic of the inner me me me game.”
Social Media, Hyper–tracking & Neglect
Scrolling through social media sites such as Twitter, Instagram or Facebook can stimulate gratifying bursts of dopamine and serotonin that entice us to scan for new posts or responses throughout the day, late into the evening.
It is widely known that social media reinforces our positive and negative self-perceptions.
Social media can lead to feelings of unworthiness when we compare our post responses with the responses to our ‘friends’ posts.
Beyond this, social media notifications velcro neatly onto the hypervigilance that some of us used to survive neglectful parenting.
Post ‘likes’ and comments are brief, seductive acknowledgements of our existence.
These fleeting affirmations of ‘me’ will not heal our insecure attachments or neglect traumas.
Healing requires substance and steadiness.
We need relationships of rapport, where others recognize us and reflect our existence back to us with authentic presence.
Instead, social media is like a fickle parent who you must work hard to get the attention of–and who still may not notice you!
Can we redirect some of this online effort into person to person relationships?
Can we put less energy into checking ‘likes’?
Can we stop searching for affirmation on social media?
When is social media a source of community and connection? How can we tell when it has become a runaway habit?
I cannot discern this for you, but I do know that conscious choice is a critical factor.
Exercising choice may sound simple, but dopamine is formidable.
Have you ever told yourself ‘Just ten more minutes,’ only to find yourself still scrolling, reading and commenting forty-five minutes later?
Social Media & Self-Reification
The structure of social media, with its notifications and chemical rewards, can fuel the obsessive dag-zin of self-reification (and trigger us into fight or flight too–more about that next month.)
This is a more insidious addiction than dopamine-serotonin.
On social media my ‘friends’ are the evidence that I exist.
The platforms encourage me to acquire more friends and ‘likes,’ more proof of my existence.
No matter how many online friends affirm that I exist, I will never arrive at a permanent, secure sense of self.
That fiction must be continually reinforced.
When is social media a source of pleasure and information vs a runaway habit of self-reification?
Can I access choice?
Can I say ‘No’ to the attention vampires, the notification mosquitoes, the dopamine-serotonin casinos?
Can I stop looking for likes or replies that reassure me that I am a me?
Can I say “yes” to my critter self’s real-time simplicity?
Body time is a humbler pace than FTL Insta-twitter-book reactivity.
Mono–Tasking & Relaxing
My sixty-day pause from social media and news was a micro of the macro, a holographic fast from the most unmarked, relentless, fruitless hyper-tracking of all:
the me me me game.
Setting some of that aside whet my appetite for non-dualistic peace.
It was lovely to set down the rev rev rev of tracking and let this bodymind meander.
Now I can look more closely at these habits of checking for a me, assessing how ‘I’ am, and strategizing what to do about it.
As I slow down and savor mono-tasking deliciousness, I wonder-
Is it necessary to mess with myself so much?
Can I just let life show up in front of me however it does, and respond to it then?
I am bored with all the reifying, poking at, diagnosing, assessing of my self.
Can I dwell in self-forgetfulness?
Either way, the episodes of my personal netflix series will continue to binge-play.
In between now and the season finale, I have some options:
I can exclaim over each installment, swap show commentaries with friends, make my show a big focus or casually observe what unfolds.
In the meantime, I can choose to cultivate ease. Take some pressure off.
I can discover what relaxes me.
So far, I find that mono-tasking is relaxing.
Immersive-focus is relaxing.
Relaxation softens the dag-zin!
When inner and outer hyper-tracking are default habits, the deepest rest will elude us.
Do you, like me, long to rest?
To drop some of that dag-zin emotional labor?
I invite you to find out:
What activities, what thoughts, what sensations give you access to your quiet mind, your quiet heart?