The Spirituality of Social Media

Sure the social web is filled with rants and quacks, but I’ve also been thinking about how the science and technology of this channel lifts people up, and perhaps even makes us better in a deeper, spiritual way.  Here are a couple of personal observations. I would love to hear what you think!

Spiritual touchpoints

I was feeling kind of bitchy this week and wrote a bitchy blog post to go right along with my mood.  It was supposed to run today.  Then I read Danny Brown‘s post on leadership which reminded me that sometimes we need to think bigger about ourselves and the world.  I decided the universe didn’t need another bitchy blog post and that I could do better.  So I trashed it.

I experience these tiny tugs of hope, optimism and encouragement every day.  Little social strings between me and others, pushing, pulling, inspiring me to do better, to think bigger about my social media community and the world.  I am evolving in positive ways because of it.

Have you surrounded yourself with these spiritual touchpoints too?

The communion of community

Recently a woman in my city lost her 18-year-old son in a tragic and violent drug-related death.   Her pain was exacerbated by questions about how police handled the case, which played out in a public forum.

I really don’t know this woman, but I have children too and the agony that came out on her blog posts touched me and probably thousands of others like me. We were a community of strangers united in grief.  We connected through Twitter, through comments, through prayer for her family.

I’ve seen this same kind of communion of strangers after the Haiti earthquake and the Nashville flood.  People used technology for a higher purpose, to commune with the needy, displaced and heart-broken.  This gives me so much hope.

Igniting Passion

I’ve just read the “Brains on Fire” book (recommended – no affiliation other than profound admiration!).

The agency by the same name preaches that the social web is an opportunity to create not just “conversation,” but movements. Watch this short video they created for Love 146. I dare you not be outraged, shocked and moved.

Love 146 works toward the abolition of child sex trafficking and exploitation.  Brains on Fire created a movement by igniting passion through stories, images, even music and art.  This is work that is measurably changing the lives of forgotten children.  This is the social web — and the human spirit — at its best.

Love one another

There are people I have met on the social web who love and care about me.

That is probably the sappiest thing I have ever written but it is undeniable and true so why not say it?  The Internet now allows you to find your folks wherever they may be, to establish your personal movement.

Does this sound weird to you?  I think it can happen for anybody if you give it a chance.  The social web is spreading love from country to country and server to server, to laptops, smart phones, iPads and people. It’s amazing to think about.  More love in more places around the world gotta be a good thing,  right?

A global heartbeat

I am in daily contact with people who inspire me from Sweden, Malaysia, Jordan, France, Australia, Russia and many other nations.  Perhaps you are too.

Pause for a moment and realize that you and I are experiencing a milestone in human history.  A profound and spiritual milestone, I think. For the first time we have access to free, real-time, global communications.   The ability to make these connections were not available to us just a few years ago.

And this is just the beginning. Sure, Facebook is the home to Farmville and about every other inane concept known to man. But don’t dwell there.  This platform alone is providing an opportunity to unite hundreds of millions of people.  Hundreds … of millions … of people. Doesn’t that take your breath away?

Twitter enabled a revolutionary movement in Iran. It failed … this time.  The power of technology to connect, nurture, and teach will eventually out-run the technology that is trying to control and contain it.  We WILL be connected and then there will be one global heartbeat pulsing through the social web.

Look through the silliness, cut through the drivel, ignore the hate.  There is a core light of hope streaming above it all with the potential to unite us, heal us, and inspire us no matter who or where we are.

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  • Thank goodness for Danny Brown! And you. I wholeheartedly endorse everything you’ve just written ~ and will be spending the rest of the night trying to knock out the David Cassidy song that started spinning in my head part-way through this post (I Think I Love You).

    If you need recruits, let me know.

  • Very nice post. So many people talk about how connecting via social media cannot replace real life relationships… And I guess it can’t. However, as you so eloquently illustrated, there is a tremendous amount of good that can be garnered from this media.

  • Mark

    @Sally : )

    @Kelechi — Or even better, turn online relationships into offline ones! Thanks for commenting!

  • This is powerful Mark. I think this needs to be said over and over again until we truly realize just what we have through the social web.

    Thanks for starting the conversation here.

  • Mark

    @Frank — I do hope this is a start of a conversation. I think this is something that needed to be said. There is so much goodness, so much potential, in our online world. Thanks for being a part of it!

  • Well done Mark!

    I’ve had this discussion many times and find myself feeling rather silly for referring to Social Media as being “spiritual”. But I too, stand by that description. The context I was using it in is the same as yours but I was driving at a different point. When we embrace social media and just spew information, we don’t interact and we shamelessly self promote, in many ways we are being disrespectful to the spirituality of the venue.

    There’s nothing better than having a thought in your heart and then seeing someone else articulate it so profoundly.

    Thanks Mark!

    Respectfully,
    Paul Castain

  • Mark

    @Paul — It’s easy to overlook the good and be overwhelmed by the mindless, the crude and the spam. I’m glad to have found somebody who shares my optimism! Thanks for taking the time to say so, Paul! Much appreciated.

  • Spot on Mark (and @Sally too!),
    There’s so much talk about how bad the internet is, how it’s stopping our kids from growing intellectually, how we’re all wasting our time on Facebook for endless hours each day, etc.
    Sometimes it takes a post like this to remind ourselves that it’s always a wonderful to connect around this planet.

    I personally see my life as much richer because of the Net because of all the people who’ve come to be my friends, as we help each other along this journey.

  • Mark, this may be your best ever post. Ever. 🙂

    Your message is profound and totally resonates with me and what I’ve been working on for over three years now. It’s not the technology; it’s HOW we use it. It’s the *intention* behind our words and actions; how we can contribute to the world (even one person’s world), to bring joy and levity to our community, to really show up and show we care, and to lead by example.

    There’s already enough noise and negativity out there; by focusing on what’s good and positive we can truly have a ripple effect that’s more far reaching than we’ll ever know.

    With Facebook, for instance, I know folks get riled at Mark Zuckerberg’s behaviors at times. But I’ve always admired his mission for Facebook and that is to help the world be more connected and communicate more effectively such that world problems might be solved. When we can keep that bigger picture in mind and focus on the real human beings behind all the user profiles, it makes it easier to forgive Facebook’s constant changes!

    Again, really awesome job. I’m sharing this with every peep I know!!!

    Hugs,
    @marismith

    PS – do you know @stevefarber? He’s the author of “Greater than Yourself.” You two would get on famously; he’s here in San Diego – happy to introduce you.

  • Mark

    @Jon — Thank you — means a lot from a man I admire so much! You are definitely one the spiritual touchpoints in the world for me who teach and inspire!

    @Mari — I really admire you because you’re truly one of the “principled” leaders on the social web and such a positive role model for so many people. I’m always humbled when you take time to leave a comment here. Thank you!

  • Mark

    Sally Drew sent me a link today that is a nice complement to this post. It’s a TED talk by Jonathan Zittrain on The Web as random acts of kindness. Very entertaining and funny talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P65XdTlk4vA

  • @KristiGrigsby

    First off, thank you for writing this rather than a ‘bitchy’ blog post! 🙂

    As you say, we are in marketing for one reason: Grow. And when we choose to grow in positive ways, we have the opportunity to touch so many others along the way.

    The world of social media is just too powerful NOT to use it to spread these spiritual touch points. Bravo for summarizing so beautifully.

  • Not much to add to this, simply “Thank you.” That was moving in an awesome way.

  • Congratulations Mark on writing such a meaningful post to remind us that behind the fans, followers and friends are people that we have the ability with whom we influence, support, connect and elevate…sometimes without ever knowing how.

    I suspect as the medium grows, so will our skills to use social mediums to expand our ability to find and share and leverage “spritual touchpoints” to be…well, better.

    Thanks for writing such a great, timely post!

  • Wow. Not a whole lot I can say really. Loved seeing a social media post on all the good that can come of all of our connectedness instead of why things suck online. Well said.

  • Mark,
    You broke it wide open. You’ve convinced me that Social Media may be the most “underhyped” evolutionary tool ever. I can’t believe how profoundly this post impacted me.

    Thanks for your passion.

  • Mark

    Thanks so much for all of your comments!

  • Mark – I love this post. It is my #1 goal in all I am doing. I couldn’t agree with you more. Pull back the counters, the tools, the platforms and underneath it all is people. People who simply want to be needed, loved, and accepted. Those who are able to look past the tool and truly connect in authentic ways are the ones I believe will ignite their biz and lives over the next decade.

    I love how Mari states “show up” and really care.

    Hugs to you both!

  • Mark

    @Pam — It is important to remember that there are amazing people behind the pictures. A humbling experience every day! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  • Mark. I love this. What an EXCELLENT post! I am going to make some noise about this. You are singing my song. There are amazing people behind the pictures. There is an opportunity to shine a light anywhere on the planet.

    Yesterday was very humbling to me. I met some folks in a tweet up who took time out of their day to be with us at a local Barnes and Noble. It struck me that some of these folks are people I would have NEVER ever known or even thought I would want to know if not for new tools and technology. You can’t bash it all as bad. You just can’t. Keep the faith. You just made a brand new friend. Come see us sometime.

  • Hey there Mr Schaefer,

    Funny how the web works, huh? 🙂

    I’m a huge believer in the good of humanity, and contrary to a lot of public perception, this is only amplified by the web.

    I find hope and encouragement every single day, in both connections of mine and connections of those I’m connected to. Like you, if I’m pissed off, I’ll jump online but I’ll be a voyeur.

    I’ll watch conversations of encouragement; I’ll visit links that look as if they’d have a positive impact on me; I’ll bookmark cool inspirations for visiting later.

    I also look at the folks that have taken the idea of 12for2k (sorry, selfish inspiration time here) and grown it beyond anything I could have even contemplated when starting it 18 months ago.

    People never fail to amaze me, and the good is out there. We just need to stop focusing in the bad just because it’s easier.

  • Mark, I am reading your post because Mari shared it on Facebook, and I am so glad and grateful that she did, and that you wrote this post. You can’t imagine how many people resonate to your words, yet simple.
    plus you make me discover the brains on fire book I can’t wait to read, and visiting their website I realize how I have to change my vocabulary to make it congruent with my core values.

    Very inspiring and timely for the new blog I am just starting called : Happiness is your success

    Amen, be blessed

  • Underneath all of the buzz there is the pulse of humanity… your post is a beautiful reminder of how one connecting to one and sharing with others can create something significant.

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  • Mark

    @Robbin Always gratifying to turn online relationships into offline connections! Thanks for all you do!

    @Danny — Thanks Mr. Muse! : )

    @Vincent — Thank you for taking the time to comment. I hope you will be a frequent visitor to {grow}.

    @Beverly — Thank you for your kind words!

  • Definitely one of your best. Thanks Mark!

  • Kathy Snavely

    Again, you have made me so proud to know you, Mark! You are one of my Twitter FINDS! Thanks for choosing to enrich, rather than _____ ! XOXO

  • Thanks, Sally – now “I Think I Love You” is in my head! Good thing I love that song!

    Mark – Twitter IS changing my life. Thank you for this post, which expounds upon that simple truth so beautifully. I feel like shouting it from the rooftops, but maybe I’ll just RT your post for starters!

    Love you, friend!

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    Ok, we have to draw a line right now. When I was a boy, my sister was obsessed with David Cassidy, The Partridge Family and that Leif-Garrett-swooning-over-boy- band scene. For a period of about two years, it was quite nearly the only music I ever heard. It elicts a Pavlovian response of wanting to tear my ears off. So Partridge Family music is firmly associated with painful childhood memories when I was forced to dwell in the nadir of American music. I’,m guessing any man of my vintatge who had a little sister suffers from the same problem.

    And now Sally et al, I can’t get that song out of my head!!

    Respectfully, I would like to declare {grow} a Partridge-fee zone.

    To overcome today’s “I Think I Love You” mental problems, I would like everybody to imagine Bruce Springsteen charging into a sweaty live performance of “Born to Run.” Ready? Begin.

  • I’m good, Mark. Thank you. That definitely did it for me. (But I blame Sally.)

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  • Mark W Schaefer

    I blame Sally routinely. However I think we can all agree that banning Patridge Family music just makes good business sense. It should be standard in every social media policy. I realize I just lost all my international readers and those under 40!!! : )

  • I personally believe you’d look very handsome with no ears Mark. And your new policy makes absolutely no sense to me at all.

    However, far be it from me to be a Site Hijacker, so I’ll graciously bop into the sunset, humming to myself. “Doesn’t somebody want to be wanted like me – where are you? …”

  • You know it is refreshing to hear someone talk about something other than business, ROI, authenticity and all the rest of that. The value of the Social Web is so broad in scope that few, if any can grasp it in its entirety. But, it is truly about the people, totally. And, this is a great example of that. Thanks for putting a “human” perspective on this for us all.
    It’s one of the key things we all gain by following and participating in “Grow”.

  • Fine, very fine post Mark

    Weak ties? No, weak defenses. No need to walk around the Twitterverse heavily armed, alert and gung-ho like at an important business meeting or event, but you can just be yourself, any Self really that you’d like to try out

    I really love Twitter. A bio, a photo, the last dozen tweets: that’s your whole life and legacy right there for anyone who’s never met you

    And especially the Circle of Creativity: blog-comment-tweet in any order. Comments lead to tweets lead to blog posts getting comments etcetera, there is no start and end anymore and even if there is, it is as insignificant to find out as the real Start and End to this universe we know

    I see amazingly, astonishingly little verbal abuse on Twitter. The awesome strength of 140-character limitation forces us all to be sparingly with our words, and think very well about them. You know what? I’m writing this down, and thinking this would be a great subject for a blog post – I’m on it!

  • This is an amazing post. Thank you so much. I am a social media evangelist (though no expert). I’m trying to explain to my friends and fellow business owners why they should care, and why I’m so jazzed about the possibilities it provides. You just said everything I’ve been stumbling around trying to explain so awkwardly.

    You have a new fan, and I’m tweeting & FBing and email to anyone within my reach. Thanks. Leisa

  • Mark

    @Steve — I knew you would connect with this. : ) Thanks!

    @Martijn — Now wait a minute! Any ideas on here become MY property for future blog posts! Ha! Seriously, you provide some very good ideas here. Love this notion of Circle of Creativity. It is so true. Thanks for the original ideas and inspiration today!

    @Leisa — Awww… that is so kind of you. And now we’re connected too and you never know what will happen!!! Thank you for taking your time to share these thoughts, Leisa.

  • Nail on the head, Mark. Thanks for posting this.

    A similar concept was touched on in the Kaizenblog chat last Friday. Let the positive flow at a higher rate to drown out the negative. Shine a light on those who uplift others & ignore those who drag people down. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” (Erin Majors).

    I have heard Victor Canada teach this for years, and hear it in the threads of people like Chris Brogan & Mack Collier. Thanks for joining in the song, Mark. If we’re going to change the world, let’s make it for the better.

    Kudos & gratitude,
    -Amy

  • Mark W Schaefer

    Thank you for your kind words of support, Amy.

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  • thanks for stating something I want.
    Conversation.
    Billy

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  • I just discovered this post & believe, like you, that a spirituality of social media comes from a spirit of community. At different times I’ve heard people say Twitter saved them from the pain of isolation. It let them know they weren’t alone, or wrong. It connected them with caring others, gave them hope & ideas. I think yours is an important post & I’m glad I came upon it.
    Best wishes from your Twitter friend, Lynn

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  • Social Steve

    Inspiring! I will go to sleep with a smile and even more hope. Thanks and know you make a difference! And one more note … earlier this week I had a thought and tweeted it … “Hope = willingness and commitment to take on challenges.”

    Great stuff Mark.

  • Chicama

    This is a great article, I do agree that in many cases Social Media is wonderful. I learn through the articles of a variety of tweets, I get inspired and sometimes refuled. Loved this write-up!

  • Thank you for the kind comment. Much appreciated!

  • That makes my day. Thank you!!

  • Thank you for writing this. In addition to the many examples you gave, social media continues to help people in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Not only through emotional and material support, but through projects that have come together due to social media like (among many others) safecast.org and quakebook.org.

  • ‘ Look through the silliness, cut through the drivel, ignore the hate. ‘
    At end of the day the social web should be an extension of who we really are and what we aspire to. If you choose to seek out the negative then of course you’ll find it BUT if you look for the positive then the world is full of inspiring, interesting people doing wonderful things for the planet and each other.
    Reciprocity rules!
    Wonderful post !

  • Thanks, Steve. This post was one of my favorites. WIth so much turmoil going on, it is a good reminder of the great potential of the web!

  • Thanks for your comment and thanks for passing along those links, Sandra!

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  • Great thoughts here.  And wanted to second your recommendation for Brains on Fire.  A brilliant read.

    -RG

  • Excellent post Mark. This reminds me of the 93 Dollar Club video that was shown by Matt Hicks at SMM2011 in Atlanta. The social web is like the real world. There’s good and bad. Thank you for writing a blog post that challenges us to direct our attention to the positive. Props.

  • Excellent post Mark. This reminds me of the 93 Dollar Club video that was shown by Matt Hicks at SMM2011 in Atlanta. The social web is like the real world. There’s good and bad. Thank you for writing a blog post that challenges us to direct our attention to the positive. Props.

  • Thanks for the great comment Chris!

  • Always an honor to have you stop by!

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  • This is the vision of online social networks I had when starting out so long ago in 2007. Thanks for putting it into words.

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