Right Intention

The second precept of the Noble Eightfold Path is Right Intention. The path being that, now that you view the world as it is without being clouded by desire, you can mindfully choose how you wish to engage with it.

I really like how the instruction linked to above puts it:

Right Understanding shows us what life really is and what life’s problems are composed of, Right Intent urges us to decide what our heart wants. Right Intent must come from the heart and involves recognizing the equality of all life and compassion for all that life, beginning with yourself.

Because I have not embraced Right Understanding at all times when it comes to my online interactions, and also because my choices have not always been grounded in compassion for myself and others, my ability to approach social media with Right Intention has suffered. In fact, far too often, I have no understanding or intention at all…

It happens to me more times than I care to admit. I take my iPhone out of my pocket, fully intending to do something — look up an address or take down a note to capture a thought — and suddenly I find myself minutes later deep into checking my Twitter stream or Facebook feed. And the alarming thing is that I’m not even entirely sure how I got there. The choice to check social media was a semi-conscious one born of habit. It even takes me a few seconds to remember the purpose I took my iPhone out for. It’s more than a bit embarrassing.

A similar effect is a crucial strategy in retail design. Referred to as the Gruen transfer, it is the moment when people enter a shopping mall and then are surrounded by an intentionally confusing layout and overwhelmed by choice they lose track of their original intentions. Based on my observations and discussions with others, I often wonder if there is something similar in our digital spaces as well. I know it is true for me.

Too often, I open up Twitter and find my self swept up and out to a sea of negative statements, manufactured controversies, “news” that is designed to keep us in a state of fear and worry, and idly watching the misery of others like bloodsport. Too infrequently do I find things there meant to inspire, engage me in right understanding, increase my knowledge, or show me the joy and beauty still existing in this world. It is infrequently a place I go to have meaningful conversation and connections with friends or open the potential to expand that number.

This all stems from not having Right Intention with how I have chosen to build my stream. I focus on Twitter here because, unlike Facebook that largely hands over what I see to an inhuman algorithm (a consideration I shall make separately), what I choose to engage with on Twitter is still largely under my control — my intentions are what drive the stream. These intentions need to become aligned with my understanding and compassion for self.

So, after careful meditation on this, I think the solution is to realign how I use Twitter, who I follow, and how I use the lists feature, with this goal in mind. For instance, I will be unfollowing some people and feeds to move them into a more meaningful and intentional list where I can better focus on what they have to say and share. To say it another way, I want to make sure Twitter is a mall that is built to my liking, where I know where the things I’m looking for are located, and full of stores and people I’d enjoy running into. So that, when the transfer occurs and I find myself in a bit of a daze, it’s a place I don’t mind getting lost in for a little while.