Using Mindfulness to Improve Online Communication

Have you ever noticed a disconnect between interactions of people online and in person? Maybe you have a friend who is normally shy but becomes outspoken when they get behind a keyboard. Or perhaps you’ve noticed how people who otherwise behave considerately can abruptly become insensitive when communicating online. It turns out that mindfulness may be the missing link.

Annie Murphy Paul recently gave a lecture at UBC titled, ‘The Science of How to get Smarter,’ where she spoke about how mindfulness can be used to increase intelligence. Intelligence, she says, is limited by internal factors: our working memory has a relatively small and fixed capacity; our attention and focus can only be extended for so long; and our logical reasoning ability, motivation, and creativity, have their own internal limitations. Overloading these finite resources can lead to communication fallout, especially online.

Audience at Annie Murphy Paul Keynote Address at UBC - Photo Credit: Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

Audience at Annie Murphy Paul Keynote Address at UBC – Photo Credit: Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.

The brain doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it extends itself into the external world. Annie says, “we got smarter not by using our brains, but by thinking outside of our brains.” In order to overcome our brain’s internal limitations, we need to understand the impact of our external environment. For example, by simply observing the rhythm of our breathing, we’ll be able to overcome the internal limitations of the brain’s inability to focus, and we’ll expand our attention spans and increase our intelligence.

When we go online and communicate, it becomes very easy to lose our sense of physical identity as we become consumed by our virtual selves. But by periodically getting up and moving around, we’re able to practice mindfulness by observing our sensory experiences. As Murphy Paul suggests, mindfulness improves attention and attention is what is required to make thoughtful decisions about what, how and to whom we communicate online.

Ways to practice mindfulness when communicating online:

  1. Move around – watch for poor posture and improper breathing
  2. Slow down and be thoughtful about what you post and to whom.

For more ideas about “thinking before you ink” check out 5 Types of People on Social Media – for tips on what to avoid.

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