Thursday, May 31, 2012

Facebook Validation, Anyone?

I don't go on very often, but two days when I was randomly glancing at various articles on the website, one caught my attention. It was an opinion piece titled "Facebook threatens to 'Zuck up' the human race."

It began by speaking a little bit about Facebook's IPO (yawn), but then it got interesting. The article quoted a Professor who said, "There's a "shift" from an analog world in which our identities are generated from within, to a digital world in which our sense of self is intimately tied to our social media presence." That's a lot of big words, but essentially it boils down to this: we have stopped looking within to discover who we are and instead are dependent on external sources of validation (i.e. number of likes, friends or posts). Instead of being true to our own ideals and own sense of self, this constant need for validation is fuelled by social media such as Facebook.

Now, I think most of us need this validation to varying extents, with or without Facebook. Memories of high school anyone? My parents never fail to remind me how much money they spent on me (until I got my own job!) so that I could wear the right clothes from the right stores. But before, that was where it ended. What you wore, who you hung out with, what car you was the external packaging that mattered. Now, it's all that and how much influence you have in the world of social media.

Now, I must admit that I am a Facebook user and I too have succumbed to the infatuation from time to time. Ever put up a status post and then check back every so often to see how many likes/comments you've gotten? Then you too have been bitten by the bug of needing social media validation. That being said, like everything in the material world, social media is also ensconced in duality. These negative effects can be argued against the positive of being able to reach so many people in pursuits of sharing bhakti yoga. But like everything, it's all about balance.

I found my balance awhile back when I noticed something. The more time I spend on Facebook, the less satisfied I feel. It's true. It causes me to compare myself against others which makes absolutely no sense. I am an individual soul that has certain things that are to come to me and to learn in this lifetime. Comparing myself to others is like regressing back to high school where looks mattered and nothing else.

Bhakti teaches us that happiness is found within and has nothing to do with the externals. It has to do with simplicity. The simplicity to realize that "Hey, I'm a tiny spirit soul that needs Krsna to do everything! I am in this particular dress for now, but it would be wise if I don't get too attached to it." So if Facebook can somehow remind us of that, it's a useful tool. But beware! It's easy to get lost in the world of likes, comments and Timeline.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Trusted Travel Companion

As most people who know me well will tell you, I tend to travel. A lot.

My love of travel was developed at a young age. Growing up I remember travelling at least once a year if not more. I still recall my first travel by air "by myself" at the age of around 14. Hitting my early twenties the travel fever hit me full force landing my in amazing places like Belgium, Croatia, England, Germany, India etc etc...

Nowadays whether its travelling by air, the local bus, in a car or by my own two feet, I have one steady travel companion. This travel companion is the perfect friend. They never complain when I toss them unceremoniously into a bag at the last minute or when they are jolted around in the bumps and turns that accompany travel. They are always there, patiently waiting for me to pay some attention to them. Never demanding but always ready.

They are my japa beads. Rarely do I leave the house without them. They accompany almost everywhere I go whether it be to work, a walk or a four month trip to India.

Without them by my side it feels strangely unsettling. It doesn't mean that I always turn to them and engage in any active conversation, it just means that they are with me. One of those rare friends that does not expect anything but is faithfully around. In travel there are so many unexpected surprises, I'm so grateful to have a trusted friend I can always rely on.