But that’s not what we’re taught. In fact, we’ve got it backward. We’ve come to believe that everything humanity has achieved has been through rugged individualism, toughing it out, and me against the world-style drive and ambition. It’s not that those qualities aren’t important; they have their time and place. Or perhaps it’s better to say they HAD their time and place.

However, the real unsung hero of a civilized society is compassion, caring, kindness, and the spirit of cooperation. I help you, you help me, and the world is better and moves forward because of it. If we understand the principle of interdependence, we cannot ignore the fact that no one is an island. Infinite networks of relationships are responsible for keeping us fed, clothed, connected, sheltered, paid, healthy, and fulfilled.

Have you ever stopped to consider the incredible self-reliance and ingenuity of some of our primitive ancestors? Their ability to figure things out, to build tools, weapons, or farming implements were the building blocks of our society, but it was only in the sharing of those ideas and the caring for each other that we were able to become more as a group than as isolated individuals.

Compassion is the Yin to the Yang of self-focused, me, myself, and I thinking. It’s the necessary glue that brings people together out of a desire to help, to care, and to eliminate the suffering of others. It’s the opposite of the ‘survival of the fittest’ that says only the strong survive. Compassion teaches us that the strength of the strong can help support the weak and we all move forward.

Compassion is also the true key to our survival and growth as a species. Force, struggle, and wrecking-ball politics are dinosaurs that will ultimately lead to our extinction. As Jonas Salk, who developed the polio vaccine said, “Evolution favors the survival of the wisest.” Compassion is the choice of wisdom, of growth, of healing, and evolution.

It is our greatest strength. And without it, we are doomed.

I’m a huge fan of Star Trek, for countless reasons. But one of its most appealing qualities for me is the spirit of collective peaceful exploration and cooperation across all cultural and species barriers. To me it’s always stood out as a beacon of what humanity could become and in my heart, I like to think that the archetypal energy of Star Trek is out there, on the edge of a metaphorical event horizon pulling us toward that future. It’s not a perfect future, but it’s an image of where we could go if we remember what it means to be human and set our moral compass to the true north of compassion, kindness, understanding, and awareness.

– Donald Miller

Now, more than any other time human history, we have a greater access to information that can lead us to knowledge, wisdom, and ultimately enlightenment. But oddly, as a society it feels as if awareness has become the road less traveled.

Why?

Why would anyone choose to remain in darkness, in fear, in ignorance?

As Rumi says, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?”

I think there’s really only one answer…it’s comfortable. We’ve become complacent in what we think we know, but we don’t know what we don’t know. Nor do we not know what we don’t know that we don’t know.

Seeking knowledge and the truth is hard. It takes work. It takes commitment. It takes brutal self-honesty. It’s not a cushy, easy ride. Not necessarily an appealing approach to a society that is becoming increasingly lazy, entitled, and self indulgent.

But in my view, choosing to live in darkness is a death sentence. There’s no growth, no evolution, no improvement. We’re stuck in the prison of our own making, and our tormentor is ourselves left over from the past. I don’t know about you, but 10 years from now, I don’t want to be the same person I am today…

Every choice we make, as individuals or as a society lead us forward to a nourishing, evolutionary future, or backward into a primitive, selfish, and hurtful past.

Every. Single. Choice.

What choices are you making today? Are they leading you to more understanding, compassion, peace, and growth? Or are they holding up an old, broken, rusty worldview that divides, stirs anger and hostility, and hold you and the rest of the world back? Can you really afford to live in the past, in an ideology that has become a relic of time long gone?

Maybe you can. But one thing is for sure, the rest of the world can’t. Knowledge, growth, and change are the only way we’ll get through our current troubles. And the choices we make toward ignorance or knowledge will make us part of the problem or part of the solution.

In ancient times, one seeking knowledge would follow a guru, a teacher or guide. Guru literally means “dispeller of darkness.” But you don’t need a teacher to find the light of truth, because it already exists within you. If you look within, you’ll feel the truth, you’ll know it down to the core of your being.

I challenge you to find the light within, to awaken to a higher more evolutionary version of yourself. Make life-affirming choices. Be compassion. Be truth. Be peace, harmony, laughter, and love. True change can only happen if each of us, one by one awaken to our true selves.

Then the world will change in our image.

The last few months have stirred up a great deal of mental and emotional turbulence, especially on social media. It’s not an exaggeration to say that social media platforms have become battlefields of polarized perspectives and competing ideologies.

For many of us, the strain of endless negativity and hostility is not worth signing on. But there are options. You don’t have to be at the mercy of every post, comment, or meme that hits your wall. You have a choice in how you can deal with the stream of information.

In my experience, there are 3 things you can do right now to cultivate more peace on social media. They are:

1. Always Consider the Source. Before you click, read, or fall down an emotionally reactive rabbit hole, take a moment to consider the source of the information you’re about to put in your head. Who’s saying it, who wrote it, what news source or basement blogger published the content you’re choosing to consume? Experience matters…it matters a lot. The thing about the internet is that it makes everyone seem reputable, but that’s not always the case. Social media has given everyone and their brother the ability to publicly opine on any topic, and while we each have some area of expertise in a few areas, very few of us are professional scientists, politicians, or lawyers and without the data that comes as a byproduct of years of training and research, for most of us, our strongly held belief is just an opinion. We all have them…

Also remember to consider the news sources your consume. Everyone likes to believe their news sources are neutral and right down the middle, or in a word, absolutely true. Chances are, they’re more in the realm of relative truth. Know the difference between an overview story of largely facts versus an opinion piece that’s based upon a particular interpretation of the facts. It takes work to vigilantly seek out the truth in everything you read, but it will save you a lot of angst later when you find out what you read (or worse yet, chose to believe) was dead wrong.

2. Skip the comments. Granted, there’s a certain temptation in opening the comment string of a highly controversial post or article to confirm or argue for your beliefs. Or better yet, just to watch a squad of like-minded others pile-on a troll. While it can be a fun spectator sport, the comment section is ultimately nothing more than a minefield of other people’s raw unfiltered options. It’s like wandering through the subtext swamp of hundreds of strangers….yuck. From what I understand, psychologists have discovered that the lack of eye contact and increased anonymity of the internet emboldens people to be orders of magnitude meaner online than they would ever be in person. In the blink of an eye, a nice discussion can turn into fight club.

Plus, there’s that whole expertise thing again. Having an opinion doesn’t make it true. But people will fight vehemently for those opinions garnished with loads of expletives…it’s really a pointless place to be most times. If you are going to comment, remember what your mother hopefully taught you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.” Hurlings insults all ad-hominem-style gets you nowhere and adds more hostility and negativity to the world. Most times people don’t go to a comment string to change their minds. They go there to prove a point, pro or con. So knowing that in advance, you can make the choice to deprive potential combatants of an opponent.

“How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged.” – Unknown 

3. Lastly, see memes for what they are. Memes have become the quickest way to make a point on the internet. Find an image, sprinkle it with a quote, an inspiring passage, or some sarcastic snark, and viola, you’ve got a guaranteed attention-grabber. I’m not against memes – they can often be spot-on, funny ways to capture a sentiment ala “a picture is worth a thousand words.” However, because of their potency, they are often used as a substitute for an actual discussion or discourse, kind of a poor-man’s debating tool. Especially when it comes to political or highly incendiary topics. When used in this way, memes get dropped on you like a debator’s “dirty bomb”.

It’s important to understand what’s happening here. That image coupled with a phrase or quote has one purpose. It’s not to further the discourse, not to help you better understand another point of view. No, when used this way, a meme’s purpose is to piss you off. It’s meant to trigger an emotional reaction. It’s a cheap shot used by someone who is either incapable or unwilling of having a healthy discussion or debate. When you see this, you can avoid the temptation to get pulled into a pointless meme salvo with some stranger in the comment section. Say to yourself, “I see what you’re doing there, and I’m not going to take the bait.”

So those are my 3 tips to staying sane on social media. They’re not a cure all, but they can help. Give ‘em a try and be a nice human online.

Thanks for reading, 

Adam