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A Twittering of Consciousness, Part I

by Matthew Gilbert

According to a recent Retrevo Gadgetology Report, almost half of social media users say they check Facebook or Twitter sometime during the night or when they first wake up. Nearly 50 percent of those under 25 don’t mind being interrupted by a text message during dinner. Celebrities Kim Kardashian and Soulja Boy make up to $10,000 for a sponsored tweet. At an estimated 50 million tweets a day and rising, there is significant upside! Are these the signs of a technology drawing us closer and closer together toward an experience of immediate and shared consciousness, or simply the extension of a fragmented collective psyche onto a wider and more visible stage?

Several colleagues of mine have written eloquently on how social technologies such as Twitter and Facebook are reflecting the inner realities of our essential spiritual natures. In a piece last year titled “The Spiritual Importance of Twitter,”  Stephan Dinan wrote “I’m now convinced that Twitter is part of the spiritual evolution of our species. Its growth corresponds to the accelerating spread of a global consciousness, one in which …we are increasingly in touch with our sense of ‘oneness’ with others.” Steven Vedro, ruminating on his blog Digital Dharma about both the challenges and evolutionary engine of the Twitter-verse, believes that “the ‘ambient awareness’ that is emerging within Twitter circles can be extended beyond the subconscious knowledge of what one’s friends are up to into an actual mindfulness practice …and to something even more powerful: the ‘seeing-everything-all-at-once’ consciousness where one is a node on the network, and simultaneously the entire web itself.” (See also Vedro’s 2007 piece “Our Evolving Global Brain” from Shift magazine.)

Then there’s the viewpoint of the person who responded to Dinan’s article with, “When I start to read stories of how the advertising industry continues to work its way into all new realms of technology and social media…what I see is the dominant paradigm on a path of inexorable infiltration and take over…‘Be here now’ has been supplanted by ‘be digital now,’ and I’m not sure this constitutes an evolutionary breakthrough. One could argue that this is merely another enviroscape for the monkey mind to bounce through.” To wit: the response thread that follows ultimately ends up in a discussion on the best price for Velcro sneakers.

In his book Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected, Soren Gordhamer takes the middle road. He acknowledges the negative impacts of a ubiquitously wired and always-on world, citing various studies that show how our collective addiction is playing havoc with our health, our creativity, and the depth of our personal relationships. But with the right tools of inner technology, he says, one can safely navigate both worlds. (See, for example, “Keeping Twitter Relevant: The Art of Unfollowing.”)

Putting this theory to the test, Gordhamer organized the Wisdom 2.0 Conference, which took place in the heart of Silicon Valley from April 30–May 1, 2010. High level execs from Google, Zappos, Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere mingled with Zen Abbott Joan Halifax, neuroscientist Philippe Goldin, and a variety of “spiritual living” digital entrepreneurs to discuss how to find balance in our high-speed, techno-saturated culture. Will our consciousness merge and co-evolve with these effervescent, unrestrained technologies, struggle to keep up, or simply drop out of range?

See Part II

  • 1 Comment
  • Anonymous Icon

    Mike48 Aug 29, 2010

    I am reminded of a recent study (Which validates my observation based on 42 years as a instructor) that LEARNING takes place in those quiet periods between study.

    Viva La Meditation

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