Information Technology, Social Media and Meditation

Today’s younger generations are growing up in a context that is significantly different from their parents’. For many parents and grandparents, information technology was in its formative years when they were young or adults. Social media came later, with the generalization of internet access. Think about it: Google was born in 1998, Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006 and Instagram in 2010. The first-generation iPhone came out in 2007.

While older generations remember life before mobile phones, internet and laptops, most younger generations throughout the world have always had them. The proliferation of readily available information technology has brought about many changes, some foreseeable, others less so. Scientists have been gauging the effects of social media on emotions, attention spans and relationships, to name but a few. The modern world offers consumers endless, effortless distractions, and the thirst for more, newer, better diversions never lets up. Easy targets for IT and social media marketing, our children seem to be experiencing ever more unease and anxiety. Meditation can help.

In the following Mindworks talk, Lama Jampa Thaye addresses the question of IT, meditation and social media. He stresses the importance of helping our children learn to rely on meditation for working with the mind and discovering the richness of the present moment if they are to succeed in resisting the many temptations and pitfalls of technology.

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We need to equip our children with skills for a world we ourselves didn’t grow up in—a world offering incredibly seductive technology. We can’t ban it. We can’t ask the government to ban it. We can’t burn down the computer factories. The best answer is to give our kids the opportunity to develop a kind of wisdom in handling these technologies. And this wisdom is going to come from their ability to be attentive and silent—in other words, from meditation. When they meditate, they learn to relish and enjoy the personal space and openness of just being in the present. They learn that even without technology they can find happiness and contentment in their own mind, in their own life, in their own breath, in that particular space.

Then, when they’re interacting with the technology at school or when connecting with their friends or whatever, they’re not going to be drawn into it. Once our children know that there’s a bigger space, a bigger, brighter, more beautiful world, technology can become a friend. It can become a useful tool rather than rather than an oppressor that enslaves them or us.

It’s not an advert for us, but I think there’s no other way that this technology is going to be tamed except by those who can meditate. Why? Because only those who meditate can actually know the joy of simple attentiveness, of the simple experience of being alive with nothing else necessary.

Technology is seduction. It says “You need me to be happy. You need me in your space because that space is frightening. You’ve got to switch me on to fill up the silence; switch me on to fill up the loneliness; switch me on to fill up the boredom.”

But meditators know that boredom is our friend because boredom, once it’s experienced, is actually not boredom. It’s joy. Meditators know that silence and space are friends from which we draw nourishment. I believe that only those who know this can actually have a healthy relationship with technology. I fear for those who don’t know it because I can’t see what other power they might have that will resist the lure of technology. It’s not that technology is Satan or anything like that. It’s just that it’s incredibly powerful and seductive.

Technology demands of us that we be the masters of our own mind and life. In consequence only the strong—those who have developed the inner strength that comes from experiencing their interior wealth—will truly be able to use technology, social media, and so on to their advantage. If we want our kids to be happy and healthy in a happier and healthier world, this is what we need to be teaching them. Now more than ever, mindfulness and meditation are needed for this generation and for generations to come.

This is the fourth and final article in a series by Lama Jampa Thaye on parenting and meditation. Here are the others:

– Part one initiates the discussion of parenting and meditation with essential qualities developed in meditation that help your child grow.

– Part two continues with creating space for our children.

– Part three shows how meditation is essential in making better parenting decisions.