From author of Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert to a fan (Julia):
“It’s always devastating to witness ignorance and heartlessness, Julia. But you are clearly a sensitive and kind-hearted person, and, as such, I beg you to stop reading the comments section of contemporary newspapers, and I beg you (and everyone) to disengage from participatting in, or even reading, Internet arguments. There, you will encountear some of the darkest and most wasteful behavoir in the world. (I mean, wasteful of our stupendous human energy and potential.) Don’t linger where the bottom-feeders lurk, Julia: You can’t change them, and hanging out around them will only put your own compassionate spirit in jeopardy. (As we say in my family: STEP AWAY FROM THE BURNING VEHICLE.) It takes discipline not to tumble into black holes of online aggression and savagery — but such tumbles are voluntary, and thus staying away from the darkness is a discipline you can cultivate. In my own life, I consider it a public service for me for to avoid such shadowy places, because it only darkens my own spirit and then I can’t serve anyone. I would no more hang out around those “chats” than I would attend a public execution. Turn your face stubbornly to the light, and keep it there. Look for love, act from a place of love, work for love, consider yourself a servant to love and a student of love, and you will soon see love everywhere. This is how we begin to serve. Bless you for your kind heart, darling, and please keep your energies safe and bright and strong. We need more people like you, so stay with us.”
“My guru used to teach us that our senses — our sight, our hearing, our touch, our taste — are our loyal servants. Our senses have no will of their own, but can absorb what we point them toward — can only obey our commands. Wherever you direct your senses, therefore, they will have to go. Whatever you turn your eyes toward, your eyes will have no choice but to see. Whatever you tune your ears into, your ears will have no choice but to hear. And a lot of what’s out there in the media and on the internet is absolutely abusive to your poor senses. But your senses cannot be protected from this abuse unless you have the discipline and the good sense to TURN AWAY.
Believe me, I know this intimately. I’m somebody who only has to Google her own name to find an endless supply of people who are shredding to me pieces all over the Internet — saying absolutely awful things about me, and attacking all that I do, say, or make. So guess who NEVER Googles her name, and never reads the Amazon reviews, and never looks at the comments after articles about EAT PRAY LOVE, for instance, have been posted anywhere online? Yup.
Don’t torture your poor, loyal senses, my friends. Instead, become a good and loving master of them. Use your senses for higher pursuits. Give your eyes beautiful things to see and read. Give your ears uplifting things to hear. Give your taste marvelous adventures to explore. Use your voice for more interesting activities than arguing over the internet with strangers who have simply not been able to find a more creative use of their sacred life energies than venting their own bottled-up anger into the dark and bottomless megaphone that is the eternal Comments Section.
Likewise: Excuse yourself from Twitter wars.
Likewise: Excuse yourself from jumping onto dog piles of group shaming over the Internet, just because it makes you feel good that 100,000 other people are also outraged and shocked at that dumb or insensitive thing somebody said. The dog pile can live without you — and believe me, it will.
Likewise: Excuse yourself from political arguments with people who will never, never, never, NEVER vote the way you do, no matter how many memes and charts and links and facts you may send to them.
We are here in this incredible world for only an instant. Life is precious and it passes in a flash. Surely, we have other things to do, right?
By the way, this doesn’t mean tuning out of the world’s problems, or shutting off your heart toward those who suffer. But it DOES mean turning your senses away from people who are rageful, combative, and gratuitously vicious — both online and offline. This takes discipline, but we can cultivate discipline. In fact we must. Discipline is the heart of every spiritual practice, and your spiritual practice can extend onto the Internet.”