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The Online Neighborhood: Exploring Buddhism and Social Media

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Social media has infiltrated the lives of just about everyone who has a solid internet connection and time to casually rendezvous over the mighty World Wide Web. Gone are the days when having an “account” was surely related to banking—an account is required for just about every online platform nowadays (remember, “12345” is most definitely a weak password!). And creating one inevitably leads to the formation of an “online identity,” via which we share our thoughts, communicate, post updates, tweet, and scroll through 9gag when work gets dreary.

Amid the million identities we form online, tweets sent out every minute, pictures #instagrammed, and Facebook statuses . . . some folks in particular caught my wandering eye. Sometimes, to find what we really want, we need to hit that “advanced search” button and see who we come across in this magnificent world, navigated via a mouse/touchpad and the cause of many tantrums when free wi-fi isn’t available. When it comes to Buddhism and social media, I found several users who have gone above and beyond the usual updates and brought fresh information to their followers. Here are a few people or organizations who have, possibly, concocted their own perfect blend of social media and Buddhism.

Buddhism is becoming connected. While there might be risks, there are also opportunities. From Naushin Ahmed.

Tumblr (microblogging platform)

“Free Buddhist Audio” (freebuddhistaudio.tumblr.com) is a simple and clean Tumblr blog that boasts 1,500 Dharma talks from all over the world. Created for Triratna Buddhist Community as their online sound and text archive, Free Buddhist Audio is an easy-to-navigate archive containing recordings by over 200 speakers from 11 different countries (The Buddhist Centre) and talks by Triratna’s founder, the Buddhist teacher Urgyen Sangharakshita. Born in 1925, Sangharakshita gained immense knowledge from his travels in India and 14 years in Kalimpong, where he established a monastery and began to work closely with the Dalit community. Having returned to England, in 1967 he founded the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (renamed Triratna Buddhist Community in 2010) and the Western Buddhist Order in 1968 (now Triratna Buddhist Order). The Community is a more widespread engagement of individuals around the globe in various social activities, while Triratna Buddhist Order has roughly 1,700 monastic or lay members in 27 countries who pledge to follow the path to enlightenment and undertake ordination. Sangharakshita has also published over 50 books.

The main archives from which Free Buddhist Audio collects recordings are Dharmachakra Archives and Dharmabytes (podcasts available on iTunes, too). All tracks are free of charge, although donations are accepted. The chairman of Free Buddhist Audio, Ratnaghosha, says on the site that he is “completely inspired to be making available Dharma talks and study materials to anyone who has access to the internet.” Scrolling down the home page, a few of their current recordings are: “Acting in Accordance with our Values,” by Subhadramati; “Six Guides to Insight and a Touch of Magic,” by Danapriya (a section from the talk “Spreading the Dharma as a Path to Insight”); and “A New Poem from Sangharakshita” (read by Parami at the European Women’s Convention in England this year).

Twitter (social network where short messages, or “tweets,” are broadcast)

Shamash Alidina has been on Twitter since 2009. His account, “Mindfulness” (@ShamashAlidina), has a vast audience of 138,000 followers, and a quick scroll informs me that he is quite the engaged and regular tweeter. A renowned professional mindfulness teacher from the UK, Alidina is a popular spokesperson for mindfulness consultation and coaching. Also an author, he has published Mindfulness For Dummies (2010) and Relaxation For Dummies (2012), and his next book, The Mindful Way through Stress, will be coming out in 2015. On his website, Alidina expresses his enthusiasm for his work with mindfulness: “I now combine all my passions to help others to train in mindfulness and thereby reduce stress, anxiety, [and] depression, and increase the level of their health and well-being. Every day is a new learning experience from me, and I learn something from the wisdom of each person I teach or coach.”Alidina tweets about mindfulness and posts inspiring quotes, daily thoughts, and much more. On 14 October, he tweeted: 

By sharing updates on events, courses, and articles he thinks are helpful for his followers, Alidina shows his commitment to spreading the practice of mindfulness. On 13 October, Twitter user “Caz Yetman” posted “Signed up to this free 22-day mindfulness email course & it’s fantastic!” tagging Alidina, and using the hashtag “mindfulnessatwork.” This is yet another example of Alidina’s work being easy to access and definitely recruiting at least one satisfied follower! Buddhistdoor has been following his account “Mindfulness” as well, and I enjoy his routine thoughts . . . a genuine person seeking to help others.

Pinterest

Pinterest is yet another fun and simple social media platform where a user can “pin” images (or quotes, but the format is mainly images) to a main board and display their likes and dislikes, favorite items, people, and sayings, etc. It is a very vast platform, and unlike a real hanging board, Pinterest will never run out of space! Also, no more pricked fingers trying to take those pins out . . .The board “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” has 2,533 followers. With pins of motivational quotes from well-known speakers (including popular Buddhists), videos of popular figures, and pictures relating to Buddhism, the board has gained quite the following. An example of a “pin” is this YouTube post of a talk by famous Vietnamese Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:

Another board on Pinterest is “Zen/Buddhist Inspiration,” which has an even greater base of followers. With 676 pins (posts), the board boasts 11,282 followers!

These people and organizations are just a tiny selection of the many inspiring online accounts that can be followed. The sharing of thoughts, opinions, and information in this way makes it easier to remain connected in our modern, super-fast lives. Social media, whether we like it or not, has smoothly integrated itself into our way of life, and I’m positive it can be made into an uplifting and refreshing experience.

Alright, time for my agile index finger to scroll endlessly through my feed and spot something new to share with you all!

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