Social Media and Spirituality: A Meditation on Change

lotus-twitterI am speaking tomorrow on The Tools of Change Panel at Envision Hawaii 2009. It has me thinking about what changes are happening right before our very eyes and how we can proactively embrace them to move this party forward with more intention.

Barriers and Gate-Keepers Are Being Removed
One of the most exciting accomplishments for me professionally occurred 5 years ago when one of my clients had her blog added to Tom Peter‘s blogroll. Mary Schmidt was a marketing consultant who had a common name in a crowded profession, along with the usual limited budget of a solo-preneur. She was also a risk-taker though and pursued the blog strategy we created for her with religious fervor! (Update: I forgot to mention this. Search for “Mary Schmidt” on Google – and see the results of all-organic SEO.)

She found the thought leader in her profession: Tom Peters – a well-respected, highly paid speaker and consultant who already had a blog himself. (That’s part of being a thought leader in this decade.) Due to the simplicity of being able to comment on his blog, she was able to have a barrier-free conversation with Tom.

That would have been impossible in the old days of “find his office, call in, encounter one or more levels of personal assistants whose job is to screen out callers, get frustrated, and probably fail” unless you were wanting to book him or quote him.

To me, this is a profound shift in the spiritual balance of power among humans. When she told me she had earned a place of respect due to her contributions to the conversation on Tom Peters’ blog, I literally felt the rumble of thousands of years of hierarchy crumbling. The gate-keepers are no longer essential and the ability to connect with each other across virtually every barrier – geographic, economic, social status, etc – is now unlimited. The White House has a blog and a Flickr account – we can comment directly.

Everyone Is a Publisher and a Therapist
The invention of the printing press changed the power structures of the time dramatically. We are seeing another round of that, as information continues to provide access to power. Yet as I realized in a talk I gave earlier this week to the Hawaii Insurance Advisory Board, information is also a tonic. People who share, literally are saving lives via chat rooms and Twitter, as well as providing a steady stream of inspiration.

This seemingly built-in desire to share how-to videos on YouTube and share links of useful information on Twitter and share honestly via Facebook when someone is having a bad day is changing how we think about ourselves and about each other. It is changing how we value things – and pricing becoming a smaller part of the equation in many instances.

It is also confusing us temporarily, as our financial systems are so out-dated. What is that tip you shared really worth to me? I could count hours of time it saved me, or pleasure that I reaped, or even products I created and then resold. Of course each metric will produce a different price. Then I must decide to decide, what it is worth, for me, for now.

Is Psychology Starting to Catch Up with Technology?
I have thought for a long time that we as a species seem to advance much more quickly in virtually every arena except human behavior. The most modern artists and programmers still fall prey to school room urges and antics of competition, of malicious behavior, or under-handed practices in personal and business relationships.

Yet on the social web, these behaviors are more transparent. And they are certainly more commented on! We are each faced with a choice every day: do I follow a herd and jump on the bandwagon of criticism or do I seek out alternate points of view? Do I cut someone some slack as I would have them do unto me or do I cast them aside permanently? Do I move my consciousness forward and not sweat the small stuff or do I pour gas on the flames?

I see people reaching across the aisle daily. I see people being willing to respect different points of view. I see people who seek out their opposites because mechanically speaking, that makes for a stronger platform. I see bloggers talking about art, I see spiritual teachers using tech, I see everyone creating in their own ways opportunities to each beyond our known worlds. Leaving aspects of our families or tribes to explore new frontiers.

To me, this is the real value of social media today: it is letting us share our worlds with each other that we may each become not just smarter, but also kinder and more collaborative when that is what is required. I think of myself these days as consciousness coach as much as anything else. Now that we can all be connected, what really is the point of our connectedness and conversation? That’s the juice that interests me! What interests you and how does the social web support you in that?