Block #1. The Fleeting Nature of Thoughts
Meditating on thoughts is quite a difficult process for me. Thoughts are fleeting like the wind: they move so fast, you can barely notice them. It’s hard to catch the exact thoughts, sort through them, pick the good ones, discard the bad ones, and make sense out of what’s left in the consciousness. However, I created this blog to train myself to do exactly this: slow down, take time to look at the thoughts, hang out with them for a while, write them down, digest them. It is okay to take time to do it. Practice, practice, practice! The more often I meditate, the better I can become at catching the right wind.
Block #2. The Changing Nature of Opinions vs. The Freezing Nature of the Internet
Opinions change. Right now, I think ABC on one subject, the next day I think ABDK. The following day I talk to someone on aspect B, and B becomes BT, expanding my subject understanding to ABTDK. Then, I read some articles and watch videos, and my opinion shifts the D to G. The following month, I come across someone’s post on the subject of G through their experience, and the nuance of their experience adds an “N” to my understanding, but then I already forgot how K got in there, so I drop the K and now it’s a ABTNG.
Let’s say, after meditating for a while, I decide that I have a good resulting remark “ABTNG” and express it online. Once the thoughts and opinions are posted online, they freeze in time.
If it was an in-person conversation, I’d say my thoughts once, you’d hear and remember maybe 50% of what I said, we’d talk a little and by the end of the conversation, you’d maybe remember 5% of my original remark, and that’s the 5% judgment that you save into your brain in a file called “Oksana”. I’d have a chance to explain the nuances of my thoughts to you, you’d ask clarifying questions about the missing pieces, and we’d have a nice respectful transformative exchange. We’d both hopefully feel like we got a clearer understanding of where our opinions come from, we’d be able to see if our arguments have influenced each other, we’d hear the tone of the voice and see facial expressions that convey the majority of the information.
However, if I post a piece online, you can read 100% of it, read it again and again. All of it. Without interruptions. Without knowing how I’d say it in real life. You might judge my opinion on that day and carry that judgment with you for a while without asking me any questions online. Of course, I could write another post later showing the change in my opinion, but will you see it? Will it change your opinion of me? I don’t know, and that is a scary thing for me not to know. I am more equipped to deal with the judgment face-to-face than through a thick veil of coded words, emoticons, auto-corrected writing, gifs, and such.
Who sees my thoughts? I am not entirely sure. If it was in pre-social media time, I could share my thoughts with a group of friends in person, so maybe about 10 people would know. If I change my opinion and feel like I want people to know about it, I could talk to these people again. Even if they happen to tell other people what I think, I honestly don’t think that many more people would bother to keep track of my opinions. With social media, I have to assume that any people out of my 700-800 friends could see it. The current algorithms of who sees my posts most likely reduce my audience, but it still can be a lot more than 10 people. I am a little uncomfortable not knowing who saw what I wrote and not having the ability to explain myself.
On another hand, if I am so scared of public opinion, then why post at all? I could just post my opinions and share them only with a few friends. One can make lists of friends on Facebook and control who sees the post by picking the list(s). Maybe do that? Or maybe avoid posting reflections altogether. There is this handy tool from the past called “Diary”. People used to write their thoughts in there and just kept them locked away. Why not do that? Why not save society from the pitstops of my brain on a daily/weekly/monthly basis? Ditch the “reflection” type of post from the blog and the problem with all of my fears is gone!
Well… There are some rare times when I feel strongly about something and do want to share something with more than just a couple of friends when I want to reach a wider audience. Should I chicken out or challenge myself to become better at writing reflections and comments online?
Block #4. Live Verbal Conversation vs. Written Online Conversation
A beneficial aspect of a conversation in person is that not much meaning is lost due to the lack of voice, intonation, or body language. I could have a reflective conversation on my thoughts with others and we could see the impact of our words on each other in our faces, voices, gestures, and so on. A conversation in real life feels organic. I cannot describe a written conversation online as organic or natural. And when something feels unnatural, I don’t like it.
At the same time, I’ve lived in the social media era for a while. We’ve been talking in the “Comments” section and have been learning how to have positive conversations. It is a skill that can be learned. Also, if you are my friend on Facebook, I can trust that you are a good person who is capable of having a respectful conversation online.
There is one piece here, though, that might damage good conversations even if it’s held by good people: writing skills. Those aspects of a live conversation that I mentioned earlier might be partially substituted by good writing.
Writing skills are underrated sometimes. However, as a wife of a writer, and as a person who has helped a few people edit their writing, I cannot ignore how important it is to practice writing these days. One of the lessons that my husband taught me goes like this, “You should not write with the goal of your audience understanding you, but with the goal of it being impossible for your audience to misunderstand you.” That is a hefty goal. It’s a challenge that I cannot require of my audience, but a standard that I will require of myself.
I hesitate to post my reflections online because I am not good at reflecting yet, I am still working on my writing skills to be able to convey my reflections well, and I fear the public judgment of my far-from-perfect reflections. However, the practice of reflection is an extremely important life skill. When I started this blog, I wanted to challenge myself to slow down and think, to give myself time to clean, prepare and stew my thoughts, and then transfer the results of my meditation into writing a tasty warm soup of thoughts. I’ve taken on this challenge and will do my best to go through with it. I hope that you will support me in this challenge and learn with me. Let’s cook some thoughts together!