I’m not a big fan of social media as a rule; I know it has its uses and I engage with them, but when I’m not busy I’d rather live my own life than watch someone elses. But the other day I saw a notification on my phone saying “so-and-so reacted to your story”, and it suddenly hit me; the way social media operates is very much the same as the Ahamkara, or ego-self.
Social media platforms use algorithms to find what you’ll most likely respond to; maybe you once posted a picture of your dog, or of a lovely beach somewhere, or a meal at your favourite restaurant. Then you’ll find other pictures of beaches, or dogs, or food, appearing in your feed. The more times you “like” an image, or a story, or whatever, the more likely you are to see that type of “bait” popping up. And the algorithm will also find people with similar likes/behaviour to you, send some of the other things they like your way to see if you’ll bite, and so the story grows and grows and grows. And when the platform shows you something new and you don’t respond to it, or if you stop responding to something you used to like (maybe you’ve gone off the double denim look?) it’ll stop showing up in your feed, only to be replaced with something else; the platform is constantly trying to hook you in, to get you involved in the “story” being presented. And it works very well! Addiction to social media is a recognised and very real problem; it presents a very skewed, unreal sense of the world around us, and causes all manner of social and psychological issues.
And the Ahamkara, the sense of individual personality or the mind, is no different! Whenever we have a few moments of quiet it’ll bring up memories of the past, or some dream of a future scenario, and see if we will “react to the story”. The more we react, the more often we are presented with that memory or that projection; when we don’t react, it quickly substitutes another story to try and hook us in. Just like social media, it’s constantly trying to distract us from here and now, from what is in our world, and replace it with the what is of another person, or another time, or another place. And in that distraction, we miss the opportunity to get to know our own world, and more importantly our own Self. We miss the chance to let the mind, which is simply the movement of thought, dissolve into silence and reveal the underlying, subtle, and everpresent sense of consciousness, or awareness, upon which the whole framework of our so-called reality is based. The Ahamkara is the most sophisticated social media algorithm there is; it knows every single moment of our lives, all our doubts and fears, our desires; everything! So it’s no wonder that we’re so addicted to the “story” of me and my life; and our view of the world is skewed by seeing everything through that story, that filter.
Just like social media, the more we feed it, or perhaps more accurately let it feed us, the stronger our addiction grows and the more distorted our view of life. And just like social media, there is only one way to break free of its grip; to stop responding and simply ignore it! Choosing not to buy into the stories of the mind won’t stop it from existing any more than putting your phone down will cause Twit/Face/Gram to instantaneously and globally collapse. But the more we stop responding to things that aren’t relevant, that aren’t actually occurring in our current time and space, the more social media, and the mind, becomes a useful tool, rather than a cause of distraction and dissatisfaction. We let the mind serve us, rather than being a slave to its addiction.
And that’s the first step to living life fully, to seeing the world as it really is, and to true freedom; not freedom of the “person” but freedom from the person! And that is the ultimate purpose of Yoga…