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Finding Meaning in the Age of Facebook

A Report by Michelle Anderer '15

Promptly at noon, the meeting commenced as the last few stragglers found their way, hands full of food-laden bowls and plates, to the remaining open chairs of the congregated circle in the Bodman Lounge of Helen Hills Hills Chapel.

The speaker, Ryumon H. G. Baldoquin, started the meeting off by urging each of us to focus on our food. To consider its connection to other organic life on the earth, how many people were required to prepare it, and how it nurtures us in mind, body, and soul. In the minutes that followed, we became reflective eaters.

Next, our speaker popped the question: what drew you here? Smith student, Taylor, remarked, "What drew me here is that the internet is part of my life, it affects how I interact with the world." She reflected on the recent valley-wide blackout, and how losing power helped her realize how much she daily invested in the internet. "I depend on it," she stated, "and I'm beginning to wonder if that is a problem." Another student, Claire, admitted that she had "come on a whim" but agrees that people can waste a lot of time on the internet and that Facebook interaction isn't necessarily satisfying. Other group members agreed to this feeling of "dissatisfaction" even after spending up to 3 hours online on sites like Twitter, Stumbleupon, and Facebook. Baldoquin Sensei argued that the feeling stemmed from a deeper level within our own bodies, and that the significance of life itself depended on our own inner focuses on such effects on our spirituality.

As quoted by Victor Frankl, the famous Austrian psychiatrist, "Our primary drive in life is to discover what we personally find meaningful." Baldoquin Sensei urged us to consider this statement when combating personal questions and difficult situations in our daily lives. Because, "people want to engage in something whole-heatedly in order to find meaning," she found it very understandable that our interaction on online sites failed to provide us with any substantial importance. More students argued that the nature of Facebook is false in presentation. "Everyone portrays life in the most positive terms and if you're feeling low going onto Facebook, seeing everyone else so happy only makes you feel worse," one student chimed in. Another argued that Facebook updates have become something of a game among her friends. "It's like when people post 'my life sucks' on their status because they know they will get lots of responses from their friends. Why don't they just think about what is really bothering them?"

Our speaker left us with three prompts to consider. What, right now, brings meaning in your greater search for life meaning? What is the meaning of meaning? And where do you want to go?

She urged us to consider ways to incorporate each of these questions in order to work towards more meaningful interaction between friends and family as well as our more significant life meaning over all. "Ask yourself, what direction am I going? My advice to is to choose the path with the heart."