There's a good post over at the blog Recovering Yogi about blogging and the Buddhist teaching on the near enemies. Here's the selection I want to consider.
This brings me to the topic of blog comments. A unique phenomenon relatively new to our internet culture, blog comments take the concept of the letter to the editor and make it immediate, anonymous and lethal. There is a fine line between contributing to a discourse and using your opinion to skewer someone else’s feelings. And nowhere does that skewering show itself as more insidious than when the blog comment comes from a place of pity.
In Buddhism they talk about near enemies.
“The near enemies are qualities that arise in the mind and masquerade as genuine spiritual realization.” (citation) Near enemies are the ways an amateur Buddhist might behave under the guise of being “mindful,” without quite grasping the concept in its entirety (which we could have compassion for, natch).
Compassionate, but clear and direct blog commenting is an art. Something I have spent a fair amount of time practicing, both in responding here on DH, but also in comments left on other blogs. Given that whatever we offer is there for anyone around the world to look at, I do think it's smart to be careful what you are doing. No doubt the flamewars some folks have engaged in online have led to some pretty nasty outcomes. Divorces. Job loss. Family rifts. Perhaps even some violent attacks and murders. Beyond any direct correlations though, there's also the general dispersal of negative energy that happens whenever people leave comments that personally attack or demean others, or which are designed not to add to a conversation or challenge an idea or set of facts, but is simply about derailing or diminishing a discussion.
It's so easy to let it rip online, thinking there aren't any "real world" consequences, but that kind of thinking is flat out wrong.
On the other hand, I have noticed that some people err too much on the opposite extreme. Trying too hard to not offend, to appear compassionate, and that as such, whatever they've written is undermined. Sometimes, you misread the emotional state of a blog author or another commenter, and then respond as if they are really angry, or sad, or upset in some way. And they weren't when they wrote whatever it was that they wrote. I've had a few blog posts over the years solicit highly concerned reactions from readers and even a few family members. Posts that were about me trying to write out what I was struggling with, but which weren't indicative of something serious, like thoughts of suicide (yes, that, among other things, has come up.)
What's curious about blogging and commenting is that a percentage of it involves sharing things really publicly that people in the past tended to not share that way. Perhaps they would never say such things. Or only share with people that they were most intimate with. But now we have these ways to offer up whatever we are thinking and feeling - right now - to whomever. Some of us use our real names, and some lurk behind anonymous tags and images, but regardless, there's still this feeling of sharing and wondering how people are going to take it. Maybe it's less dramatic for those who are writing and commenting anonymously, but I'd argue it's still present for them too. Go check out any hot political or relationship blog and you'll see endless amounts of passionate debating, often amongst people whose comments are not really traceable.
I think most people haven't really caught up emotionally, or even intellectually, to what we are doing online. Which is why using the near enemies as a guide while writing and commenting are helpful.
Are you attached to your views? Are you indifferent to the feelings of other commenters or the main blogger? Do you feel envious of another commenter or blog writer for some reason?
I offer this practice for folks to work with. Take the next week or two and notice what you see.
As always, comments are welcome.