Twitter, transience and truthfulness

by Tom Albrighton 22 September 2009 Digital and social

Positive beliefs are very important. As Henry Ford said, ‘if you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re right’. While optimism and belief aren’t everything we need in order to achieve, we’re unlikely to achieve much without them.

No-one who uses Twitter much can be unaware of these ideas. Maybe it’s because of the followers I’ve chosen, or the typical profile of many Twitter users (sole traders, freelancers, consultants, coaches, trainers, marketers), but positivity is very much the order of the day. Most days, my Twitter feed is crammed full of inspiring quotes, motivational sentiments and success stories.

And that’s fine. Better that than doom and gloom. But is this relentlessly upbeat worldview really representative and balanced? Is it true?

From time to time, I’ve noted that some opinions expressed on Twitter are at odds with what I know those Twitterers really think. Clearly, they felt they had to put a positive shine on their sentiments for the world at large. Why?

Into each life some rain must fall

Into each life some rain must fall

For Buddhists, transience (or ‘impermanence’) is the defining characteristic of our experience. Nothing is permanent or fixed; everything is shifting and changing. The seasons revolve around us; the weather changes from day to day; our moods and perceptions are constantly changing. Our lives are shaped by comings and goings – people, relationships, homes, jobs and situations all come and go as we move through life.

Transience is usually the product of movement or tension between polar opposites: day and night, rising and falling, happiness and sadness, hope and fear, growth and decline, life and death. We label ‘rising’ and ‘growing’ events as ‘good’, while ‘falling’ or ‘declining’ events are ‘bad’. We have a very strong preference for the ‘good’ side, so we try to bring more ‘good’ things into our lives, or hang on to them, and avoid the ‘bad’.

However, if we’re honest, we know both sides of transience are inevitable and, in their different ways, essential. We need rain as well as sun. We can’t be growing, profiting and succeeding every minute of every day. Even death is a part of life; decline or decay prepares the way for renewal.

So we shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging our doubts, fears and failures in our social-media lives. In my view, it would make the Twittersphere a much richer, more balanced and fulfilling place to be – one that reflects every side of us, not just the parts we think are ‘good’.

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