There, I’ve gone and done it. I posted an unfortunate comment to someone’s Facebook status update. I intended no sarcasm, but it was taken as such. This person sent a reply and unfriended me from Facebook. My comment was innocent, but incomplete and without context. In retrospect, I can see how my comment could be taken as snark. Further, it doesn’t really matter what was intended, because the individual is still hurt.
For me this demonstrates the need to look more carefully at the question of “mindful computing.” I’ve always loved Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Telephone Gatha,” and should probably put one for computing somewhere on the desk.
Words can travel thousands of miles.
May my words create mutual understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems,
lovely as flowers.
This is especially important to me because computing is connection, but it can be shallow without mindfulness. It seems a violation of Kant’s second categorical imperative, to treat people as ends in themselves, not means.
All we are really doing on social media is pursuing connection, which is a desirable end. However, absent mindfulness and a meaningful dialog about them, the “affordances” offered by our means can become obstacles. We can be, as Sherry Turkle observes, “Alone Together.”
I welcome thoughtful commentary on how we can pursue mindful computing and ethical social media. In the meantime, please enjoy the song “Summer Rain,” a B-side single from U2, which I thought of upon reflecting on this incident.
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Just as you find me
Always I will be
A little bit too free
I lost myself in the summer rain…