Written by Danni McDonald ’19
Last spring, I was desperate to find a class to cover my ES core credit (i.e., Ethics and Social Responsibility) while I signed up for Fall 2017 classes. This was how I found Professor Kerry Skora’s class “Dialogue and Mindfulness” and I thought—cool, dialogue! —this will help my writing major.
Dialogue and Mindfulness is actually a Religious Studies course on Mindfulness in the ways we communicate, listen, and interact with people. We practiced having a healthy dialogue rather than a discussion. (Interested in this idea? Look at the reading list at the end of this blog.) In our dialogue, we also talked about the mindful use of technology and the crazy way we are addicted to mindless technology.
A class reading was Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Modern Age. Turkle talks about the addictive use of technology today and how it hurts real-time experiences and conversations. We want to know it all and be connected to everything but virtual connection that replaces face-to-face real time conversation hurts empathy, inflates the ego, and affects our self-worth as we compare it to the number of likes we get. It may sound weird, but only in moments of boredom can we learn about ourselves more as individuals. If we are always scrolling away, we will never be bored and have that moment of self-discovery.
In response to this, I initiated a self-test to give up social media for the three-week term. I deleted the apps, links, and shortcuts from my phone and computer. I logged out of Facebook, Snapchat, and everything in between—even my art accounts. I thought this would be easy, but at the end of the night I already found myself opening the logged-out window of Facebook over six times and obsessively, yet unconsciously, searching my phone for Snapchat. I was shocked to realize this addictive search of accounts. This separation would be good for me.
With social media out of the way, I focused on another important topic that it would only disrupt: meditation. I have tried meditation numerous times and failed because I never knew the importance of your breathing. In class, we listened to the sounds of nature videos (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1iboKia3AQ) over Jon Kabat Zinn’s “Sitting Meditation” video based on Buddhist meditation practices (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQkzhyXEc-0).
New to meditation, it was shocking when my mind was silent for the first time in my adult life. It went shockingly blank. I did this often but irregularly in groups or alone and I have learned that some people focus on an image like water or a flower in their peaceful or calm state. I just saw colors. Uncontrollable, spontaneous color—and it was incredible.
After all these experiences and tests, I came out of this three-week seeing the world and myself differently. Weeks without social media to cloud my mind, I studied mindfulness, dialogue and meditation…it was like waking up to find everything irreversibly different.
Returning to my accounts online, I felt as if I was putting the old chains back on and ignoring the new sights I had found. I literally looked around, sighed, and logged back out. I printed a few pictures from Facebook but then deleted Snapchat for good too. I didn’t care for it anymore, I wanted nothing to do with these apps. Once again, I removed them from my phone.
With a new view of things, I often listen in on conversations, seeing how people pay attention to each other, or not at all, as they check their phones and slip out of conversations. Conversations about social media stick out to me because people obsessively update each other on it in real life and I see people who are at a jubilant table, but they ignore everyone because they are scrolling through twitter.
This all reminds me of a specific part of my childhood. In second grade I got glasses and when I walked back to my mom’s car I exclaimed, “Wow! Mum, your car is so dirty.” I wasn’t a mean kid; I just saw all the dust and dirt for the first time because I could actually see. Life is like that now; I see new things that I have overlooked before, whether in conversation, interactions, or within myself. But, with this new ‘dust’ I see, I could never go back. It is like putting on glasses for the first time all over again. I see the world differently.
This new awareness of life and spiritual health now leads me to find more time for myself, something I never used to do as I find myself walking quietly in peace through the snow or as meditation joins my yoga. I’m more at peace with things and happy inside my own mind.
Interested in these topics? Here are some good books:
- Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives by Theodore Zeldin
- Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk by Sherry Turkle
- On Dialogue by David Bohm