JOYCE FEGAN: Follow Dalai Lama’s online status and don’t like it all

Joyce Fegan asks, if you run a marathon but do not post a finish-line selfie to Facebook, did you really run the race?

A TWITTER user has discovered the secret to the Dalai Lama’s serenity. Django Gold posted his findings online last week. “Hey guys, I think I figured out the secret to the Dalai Lama’s serenity,” he wrote, alongside a screen grab of His Holiness’s Twitter biography, which showed that the Tibetan spiritual leader was following exactly zero people on the social media platform.

To add more weight to Mr Gold’s findings, following a detailed investigation of my own, the Dalai Lama had been on Twitter (presumably not concurrently) since February 2009.

While he follows no accounts, the Tibetan monk, by today’s standards, can most definitely classify himself as an influencer, boasting 17.5m followers on the social media platform.

However, his feed is devoid of both selfies and brand collaborations as he prefers instead to post about things such as non-violence, destructive thoughts, and perception vs reality.

The thing about reality nowadays is that it is much like that tree falling in the abandoned forest: If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

If you run a marathon but do not post a finish-line selfie to Twitter/Instagram/Facebook, did you really run the race?

Back in the 18th century, Kilkenny-born philosopher George Berkeley is understood to have posed a question similar to the falling tree one.

His theory was that perception creates reality.

Albert Einstein played around with this notion too, except not with a tree, but with the moon.

He is reported to have asked his friend Niels Bohr (a founding father of quantum physics) if the moon existed if no one was looking at it.

It is not known exactly how the two friends settled the score.

Back to the marathon finish line for now. Approximately two years ago a friend of mine (Mary) told me she was not on Facebook or WhatsApp. WhatsApp and I were on a break at the time, so I was not too intrigued by her relationship status with the messaging service.

However, the Facebook status had me enthralled.

“We have a limited amount of time and finite amount of energy in any given day,” said Mary, “and I want to use my time and expend my energy on actual things.”

Things included preparing lecture notes, studying for a PhD, and on-the-ground community work.

So for the last two years, I have kept her words to the forefront of my mind and Facebook feed.

So much so that a cousin I am close to asked me at his babies’ (a twin boy and girl) christening last July what I had been up to of late as my Facebook had gone quiet.

As opposed to fobbing him off in his own home, while surrounded by an audience of about eight people, I decided to come clean and tell him that I was finding Facebook “a bit negative of late what with Trump and all that”.

A man takes a selfie with the Madame Tussauds waxwork of US President Donald Trump outside the US embassy in Nine Elms, London. But if the person didn’t post the selfie online, did it even happen? Picture: Yui Mok

I chose against further elaboration of the “finite energy” and “limited time” part of my decision-making process. I thought I might lose the audience of eight at the word “finite”.

Since that July evening, I have more or less continued to “not post” images of hikes, holidays, flowers, and dogs on my Facebook page, although the odd discrepancy is allowed, because moderation in moderation and all that.

As I continue to “consciously post” much like Gwyneth Paltrow’s and Chris Martin’s conscious uncoupling, I have noticed other people sliding offline too.

It seems to have now become Ireland’s second-favourite topic to talk about, after the weather; nothing, not even Trump, will top “the rain coming in from the west”.

We all talk about how we shouldn’t spend so much time online, while scrolling along our phone’s screen. We say how terrible it is that kids spend eight hours a day checking their social media accounts and we condemn others who openly shame others online.

We say how awful Twitter is, and how not to look at what so-and-so said and to most definitely not engage in a row in cyberspace because there are never, ever any winners there — only the shamer and the shamed.

But let’s just put all the screaming and shouting and screen time to one side for a moment and talk about the falling tree again.

How many things happen in this world that don’t make it to social media?

While we despair about world leaders warring on Twitter, there are groups of people out walking the

Wicklow Mountains (on a weekday — I’ve seen them), there are men and women in Cork collecting food parcels for this week’s St Vincent de Paul drop-off, and there are surfers down in Co Clare building a 60-acre community farm.

These are all real happenings — which can all hold up in a court of law, the reality of their existence is not

debatable.

Instead of talking about the over-filtering of images and how people only post the showreel of their lives to

Facebook, let’s start thinking about all the amazing events and tiny acts of kindness that will never see the light-of-social-media-day.

For example, my soon-to-be five-year-old nephew drew two pictures last week, one for a woman he’s met twice and one for her new dog, a poodle puppy (a sight to behold, if you are canine inclined).

Another example is of a man who heads off up the east coast of Ireland every day in his row boat, with his

labrador onboard. He built the boat himself and then helped the local scouts club build similar ones for themselves.

A Green Party senator also told me of another happening which was not recorded online. Schoolchildren in her area were greatly concerned about the plastic lining in coffee cups and so carried out a survey, the results of which meant T Bay Surf & Eco Centre Cafe in Tramore decided to change to compostable cups.

See, it’s a bit like the news, and the way the general public say that it is only ever negative stories that make headlines and bulletins.

Just because the supreme leader of North Korea is provoking the commander-in-chief of the US on Twitter does not mean that vaccines are not being discovered, animals are not coming off endangered species lists, and a homeless family is not about to get a key to a home.

All these real and positive things are happening, and more. Energy goes where your attention flows.

And if all else fails and you can’t find evidence of happy happenings, do as the Dalai Lama does and cull who you follow — better still, just step away from the phone.


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