Online Mindfulness

Email-mediated interactions: Hold yourself to the highest standards of caring and protecting the reputation of others (E-etiquette).

Be mindful in posting and reading: Envisage any online forum (e.g., Facebook, Wordpress) as a container, a space that you enter and leave mindfully. That is, set limits; give yourself a structure so involvement in the forum does not lead you to feel swamped or fragmented or unsure that you can synthesize or keep in mind all the interesting items you are coming across. To this end, you might allow yourself a delimited amount of time per day, say 30 minutes, to explore online offerings or sharings but you would also preserve an equal amount of time—preferably when you are fresh at the start of the day—to gather your thoughts based on whatever is currently in view or in mind, which may be quite different from what you have to do for your work or project or studies. Such Refractive Practice, in which you give yourself space to “connect, puzzle, and reflect” (CPR Spaces) makes it less likely that you feel left behind when you don’t follow or respond to every thread that is offered, however worthwhile they had seemed at first sight.

Help yourself as a reader: Use a bookmarking applet on your browser (e.g., diigo) to record and annotate sites you may wish to come back to or share with others. Set automatic notifications from online groups at the frequency you desire. Arrange for those emailed notifications to be filtered into a mailbox that you read when you clear time to do so. Search for hashtags or categories or tags to filter the results you look at.

In posting, help readers follow threads and decide what to read:
  • For any long post, begin it with the topic and a topic sentence or summary.
  • If you post a link, include text that conveys how the link connects with your own thinking (thus helping others decide whether to visit the link).
  • If your post picks up on a previous post (of yours or someone else), link to that post.
  • Specify the appropriate category for the post. Categorizing helps readers filter what posts they are viewing and makes it more likely that they will read the discussion posts. Hashtags and tags can also be used for the same reason.
  • Before posting, click “remove” for the picture that shows up for the first link in a post unless it truly illustrates the content of the post. (Removing pictures shortens posts and visual distraction, making it easier to scan a series of posts.)

  • Prepare for live sessions in advance:
  • Address technical issues (e.g., install plugins; practice muting and unmuting yourself until it is a habit so no-one has to remind you to mute your mic when you are not talking; connect your computer directly to the modem, if at all possible, not indirectly through wifi; practice use of screenshare to share a presentation; closing unneeded tabs and windows so the presentation is easily located).
  • Address non-technical issues (e.g., arrange for someone else to look after the kids or the pets; be ready to start at the set time [which usually means clearing the decks and coming into the live session 5+ minutes early]).

  • Checklist for responding to technical problems during a live session: The first move is for the participant to leave the session and return. If this does not solve the problem, you can ask to be brought in by phone (if that is an option). Have your phone beside you and put your phone number in the chat. Ditto, if you have problems with frozen icons or sound. After the session, you can try troubleshooting steps, such as reinstalling the audio and video plugins or emptying your browser cache.

    Privacy: When a forum is private, members can refer to each other's posted text only inside that forum. You can ask others for permission to quote or otherwise refer to their text elsewhere, but it is ok for them to say “no” or “not yet for I’m still shaping my ideas.” If you come across material from a private forum outside that forum, alert the forum's moderator. Posts on a private community should not appear in a google search; if they ever do, alert the moderator. One exception, of course, is if you have posted first on a public forum and then shared that post inside the private forum.

    Choice of platforms: Facebook responses tend to be short and transient—people soon move onto a new topic; past discussions are difficult to locate. (The now defunct google+ was better suited to establishing private forums, in which it was possible to search for and review posts on a given issue, but scrolling still tended to be the main way people navigated the forum.) Wordpress tends to foster longer, more considered posts; drafting and editing are straightforward. Other platforms, such as, are designed specifically for discussions, but, if the above Mindfulness guidelines are used, then the extra bells and whistles they have may not be needed.