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I seem to have a lot of consideration for others in person, but on social media -- where non-verbal cues are lacking -- I react more easily with irritation and impatience. Since such communication was not existent in the Buddha's time, I wonder:

Are there Buddhist tips or remedies specifically linked with such online types of communication? Karmically speaking, would online communication be a lesser consequence than actual in person wrong speech?

Thank you

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In the Buddha's time, people would still have communicated remotely through envoys. Social media is much like writing a letter to someone, except that receiving the information is instantaneous (hence, "instant messaging").

This should be reason to make careful consideration regarding the words you use, since you have plenty of opportunity to correct errors, grammatically and ethically, before sending information. Unfortunately, in an age with people born into an expectation of instant gratification, this is not so common. Emotion can run rampant and a single keystroke can send a barrage of letters that may invoke hate, lust, ignorance, etc. I would imagine that the karma for unethical writing is similar to wrong speech. The time it takes to communicate those words may vary among persons, allowing wholesome or unwholesome mental states to fester.

In the digital world, what you write has a higher chance of being kept on record, and used against you. The ways in which karma comes to fruition may be what has changed in the present age, which makes it even more important to be heedful and mindful of your choice of words. The best you can do is keep trying to improve your mode of communication.

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You might like to read Ekamsena Sutta (AN 2.18), on the consequences of good and bad conduct.

There's a famous (non-Buddhist) saying, in English, for children

"If You Can't Say Something Nice About Someone, Don't Say Anything at All!"

Following that advice that might be even easier on social media, because you have time to think before you post.

Is there a good way to use "reputation", too?

Given that I have declared, Ananda, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done, these are the drawbacks one can expect when doing what should not be done: One can fault oneself; observant people, on close examination, criticize one; one's bad reputation gets spread about; one dies confused; and — on the break-up of the body, after death — one reappears in the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, in hell. Given that I have declared, Ananda, that bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, & mental misconduct should not be done, these are the drawbacks one can expect when doing what should not be done.

I've been conversing online since the earliest 1990s. I don't remember being mean to people but there were times I got into silly (friendly) chats and conversations with people, using a pseudonym.

Since then I tend to post, instead, with a username that's more-or-less identifiable as a real person

I'm not saying that you need to investigate which person I am -- but, "I" recognise what I post as being "my" username and "my" post and so on -- maybe you don't want to post stuff that you ought to feel ashamed of ...

Given that I have declared, Ananda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, these are the rewards one can expect when doing what should be done: One doesn't fault oneself; observant people, etc.

... so adopting some kind of "identity" -- as if this were in public, not in private -- might help to "take responsibility".

And since you asked for Buddhist advice, how about No Attachment to Dust:

Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest


Karmically speaking, would online communication be a lesser consequence than actual in person wrong speech?

Perhaps it's greater consequence:

  • Read by more people
  • Remembered for longer
  • Less immediate consequence

If you're talking in person and (for example) you offend, there's immediate consequence -- they reply -- and you might correct was said and why you said it.

Whereas with fewer immediate "consequences" to what you post online, there's less feedback or correction -- and maybe what you do, say, and think are more likely to become "habitual".

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The conditioning main component of speech is thinking and pondering.

Thinking and pondering are verbal formation.

Cūla Vedalla Sutta

So I believe regardless of if you speak it or write it the results are the same.

If you just think it and do not follow through with the communication then the effects will be less as this is purely mental karma. If one follows through, more people come in contact with what you have said and comprehends what has been said more the karma. E.g. if you lie and 2 people get deceived this is worse than 1 person. If you lie and nobody understands this is less bad than one person understanding what you said.

The guidelines would be the same for both online and non-online interactions, namely. abstaining

  1. from lying,
  2. from divisive speech,
  3. from abusive speech, and
  4. from idle chatter.

See: Sacca Vibhanga Sutta

For further guidelines see: Right Speech

  • So are you saying that even only the mental act has karmic consequences? – Eggman Aug 3 at 17:59
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    Physical and verbal action which is followed through has more karmic consequences as doing something requires a lot more mental activity. Ultimately volition is what decides karma. – Suminda Sirinath S. Dharmasena Aug 4 at 2:08
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The best thing to do is re-read the comment you typed to post at least twice before sending. While doing this your mind will calm down & bring you to right mindfulness. This way you can minimize the amount of wrong speech you perform. Continually practicing, you'll be able to stop thinking the sentence as soon as it starts coming up to your mind.

Always remember that what you post on social media has much greater influence than what you say in actual speech. What you type in is read by millions of people around the world. All the people reading it will get the same emotion you got while typing it. This will emit a large amount of hated rays to the universe which will have bad impacts. This is the scientific reason why Lord Buddha chanted us to always be mindful about our speech & speak only productive & nice things.

You've done a great work by identifying that you are impatient while using social media. Now it's only the easy part left. Wish you luck in accomplishing it. May the noble triple gem bless you!

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