‘Happiness Tech’ And Spirituality: Merge Or Mutual Exclusivity?
When life throws us a curveball, there are many ways in which we can respond, and generally only a few ways in which we do. One of those ways is to look up the trusted friend who almost always hovers around us nowadays: the Internet.
There’s a solution to every problem, and even the problems you’d thought nobody else in the world would have…well, they are thoroughly and vividly being laid out for you online. More specifically, we look for them in the place where we both hide and shine; where the Internet provides us with a digital (and different!) version of our social life: on social media. However, by now, this online realm comes with a downside that’s nearly as strong as its upside, as Raya Bidshahri explains on singularityhub.com:
“…as you may have realized through your own experience, technology can make us feel worse instead of better. Social media can become a tool for comparison and a source of debilitating status anxiety. Increased access to goods and services, along with the rise of consumerism, can lead people to choose “stuff” over true sources of meaning and get trapped in a hedonistic treadmill of materialism. Tools like artificial intelligence and big data could lead to violation of our privacy and autonomy. The digital world can take us away from the beauty of the present moment.”
I think you’ll agree with me that both technological advancements and social media are here to stay. They may not remain exactly the same over time, but they’ll not vanish like some dinosaurs either. Which leads to a question that I have attempted to answer in several of my older blog posts, but that keeps popping up and triggering my interest nonetheless:
How can we merge technology and spirituality on a day-to-day basis?
As I have learned to appreciate the quality of a question over the desire to find (the perfect) answer, I am not going to pretend to know how to do that. Merging technology and spirituality as I live and breathe. Because yes, I am taking a mutual exclusivity off of the table. It’s my way of taking the stand of non-duality.
On the one hand, I think we’re simply not there yet as social media — like many other Internet related technologies — have entered our social sphere relatively recently. Again, compared to those dinosaurs for instance. Right now, we are still figuring out how to deal with social media in a human way. Period. On the other hand, once we find ourselves humanly and/or technologically and/or spiritually evolved enough to investigate that question, it is still a tough nut to crack. Most technology — especially Internet related things — has the element of time ingrained in it. They may literally display a clock or include a timer function. They may contain algorithms that focus on the amount of past interactions for a new update to be seen, instead of the actual moment (NOW) when the update is being posted. And if Eckhart Tolle has taught us anything, it is that those kind of time related notions are the one thing that stands between us and living in the NOW. Living in the NOW being what all ancient wisdom traditions, as well as current spiritual teachings, emphasize as the pinnacle of a spiritual life.
In other words, if we wish to merge technology and spirituality we need to figure out how that technology can transcend our time system, and become part of the present moment.
The irony being, of course, that this kind of transcendence is what some humans devote their whole lives to — without the additional challenge of a technological merge.
Still, it is a question that I deeply appreciate for its many angles and possibilities. As does Eckhart Tolle, I believe, when looking at the mixture of humor and sincerity with which he tries to answer it in the following video. Which is also where he comes back to the opportunities that « happiness technology » provides us with — the one thing I didn’t literally address here, apart from in the title.
Will you let me know what thoughts this has triggered with you? I look forward to hearing them!