I'm sure many would laugh at the notion of Facebook being a powerful vehicle for personal and spiritual growth. But that's exactly what it's becoming for me. Sure, a lot of the time I'm just messing around there. But other times I'm testing. Stretching. Growing.
Perhaps the biggest thing that has spurred spiritual and personal growth for me is something that happened over a year ago. I made a decision to step out of a particular Facebook drama and choose oneness over singling others out...to live by the golden rule, rather than seek an eye for an eye. It was a very unpopular decision within a group of my friends. When I chose not to continue playing at that level, a number of people unfriended me and still more distanced themselves from me.
I knew my choice was right for me, though. It was all WWJD and stuff...the kind of stuff I preach about and had better live by, in my estimation. But while many people like to talk about "Christ Consciousness" and forgiveness and turning the other cheek, they can't quit bring themselves to live that way. Because living that way is hard. It means letting go of the ego's need to be right or to be a victim. For me, this situation meant letting go of my need to be liked and accepted. And in letting that go, I kind of took a giant leap forward on my path. I won't lie. It wasn't easy to weather the coldness in people who once held warmth for me. And it's not like I'm suddenly a saint. But it has been one of the biggest "wins" for me on my spiritual and personal journeys. It was a giant leap in the direction I want to go...in the direction of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
That's a big thing. But each day I come across many smaller opportunities to stretch and grow on Facebook. Let's take, for example, Needy Nelly. She's always having a crisis, writing in all caps or using some other device to get you to feel sorry for her and/or give her attention. My normal thing would be to ignore her altogether, rolling my eyes at how needy she is. But she's an opportunity for me to have compassion and patience. When it comes down to brass tacks, everyone just wants to know they're noticed, heard and understood. That they matter. Nelly's going about it the wrong way, yes. But that doesn't mean I can't be gracious and give her some of the attention she seeks by offering, "That's awful. I hope it all works out for you. Let me know when it's resolved!"
Really, how hard is that? How much skin is it off your back? If they try to continue to engage you, you can always either not reply or reiterate, "gosh, I hope it all works out to everyone's benefit." Of course, the key is not to do anything I'm talking about here in a fake way. The key is to stretch yourself to a place where you mean it...where you can love even Needy Nelly and wish her well. It benefits you. It benefits Nelly. And it creates love where consternation might have otherwise existed.
Conversely, if you simply can't bear to give her the recognition she's so desperate for, then it's an opportunity to ask yourself why. What does she bring up in you? How are you like her? What is so important for you to hold on to that you can't set it aside long enough to give her what she so desperately needs? If you can't do it genuinely, what is standing in your way?
Another example is Dramatic Dan. He wants to create controversy and will say anything to make that happen. And darned if he doesn't always bait you into an argument that gets you all worked up. Dan is an opportunity to say nothing. Or to say your opinion without having to defend it. What doesn't serve you (unless you like this sort of thing) is to try to out-argue him. Nobody will ever out-argue Dan. And it doesn't serve anyone else in the thread for you to hop in and try to break up the situation, make nice or otherwise mediate. That just keeps the fuel flowing to the fire.
So practice something that helps you grow, instead. Walk away and let the situation go. If you post your opinion, don't enflame Dan. Just post it and walk away. Or, better, use the "stop notifications" option. Don't get drawn into negativity. The first time it might be hard. I was always someone up for a good debate. But if you've observed enough drama and conflict, then you know the only way to win is to not participate. So don't participate.
From Gotta Be A Naysayer Ned and Abused Dog Pics Annie to Judgmental Judy and Nancy Knows-It-All, Facebook is the perfect experimental landscape in which to stretch yourself and make different choices in ways that impact both your spiritual and personal growth. And it doesn't have to be about dealing with difficult people (though that's what I've focused on here.) It can also be about practicing kindness by maybe saying "Wow, that's an amazing picture" rather than just "liking" the photo and moving on. Or practicing patience by helping someone find the "stop notifications" option (it's a little carat or "v" in the upper right hand corner of every post that you can click on. You only have the "stop notifications" option if you've responded to a post. Otherwise, just remove the offensive post from your feed by clicking on the same carat.)
Whatever you need to work more on in your journey of personal and spiritual growth, you'll find a situation to help you grow on Facebook. In fact, you can test choices out online, see how they work, then roll the proper behaviors out in real life. Again, I'm not saying to be fake as much as I'm saying to learn to be genuinely kind and compassionate in situations that would normally vex you.
Growth can be a passive thing. If you live long enough you'll grow. But if you really want to make to make progress, you have to work at it and challenge yourself to be more aligned with the person you want to be...the person you know you're capable of becoming. Facebook can be akin to junk food for the mind. But if you approach it mindfully and in spirit, it could become an endless font of fuel to take your personal journey to the next level.