Today, I got called an ass by a complete stranger on Google+ for a comment I made on a post. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be me ragging on a perfect stranger for an entire post. Maybe I deserved it, maybe not. I’ll leave that up to everyone else. It did, however, provide an example of how social media can be an excellent opportunity to practice equanimity.
First, let’s be clear about what I mean when I use the word “equanimity.” We’ll define equanimity as mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation. When this person called me an ass and then later insinuated I wore a tinfoil hat (they’re very comfortable) I started to get angry. I felt like the person was attacking ME instead of discussing the topic at hand. How dare they shift the topic and try to undercut my character to make a point? Then I realized, what’s the point? Why was I getting so angry to the point where I felt like I needed to respond to everything the person and the peanut gallery were saying? So I collected myself, responded to the people who were interested in having a respectful discussion and moved on. Or so I thought… Albert Einstein said, ““Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment.” Let’s see if we can’t buck that trend.
Later on, I found myself thinking about the interaction. I was still holding on to the idea that I had been wronged in some way. I vented to a few people (because of course they wanted to hear ALL about my daily internet excursions) and then I made the decision to take something useful from the experience.
When you feel like someone is attacking you it’s important to maintain composure, especially when using social media. There are people online who have mastered the art of trolling and pushing people’s buttons. Sometimes they don’t even know they’re doing it. The key is to not let it affect you. Easier said than done, obviously. However, when you don’t lose your cool, you gain the opportunity to learn. Because I calmed down and decided to not let the negative things other people were saying about me I found some other really cool people to add to my circles. And you know what? A lot of people circled me.
Removing the anger and aggression from the situation, allowed me to meet people who are focused around a very specific topic that I care about and for that I’m grateful. So the next time you feel yourself losing your cool either online or off, remember that maintaining equanimity opens up a lot of doors that you otherwise would have missed because you were too angry to turn the knob. I’ll leave you with a quote from Carl Jung,
“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”