Being Genuine on the Internet

I’ve thought at times that I would be a writer. I want to fill my table with rich conversation and figure things out with people. But expressing ideas has always been a painful struggle for me. I have little to show for it. I spent years trying to get close to people talking only about ‘How are you?’ and ‘What have you been up to?’ When I finally built a friendship around the question ‘What’s on your mind?’ it was like being broke open and seen for the first time.

The internet could be a place where I talk about ideas, but I find it incredibly vulnerable and hard. There is just a blank page and this public. It feels more like a performance than a connection, and the distance between me and the person I want to be is just vast. How big and tender is the desire to tap out flourishing connected ideas- to share in a tone not didactic but still firmly mine. . . . To make something that is free-flowing from the heart but organized enough that you will understand it–whoever you are.

Still, this blank page–with all its terrible teeth–is such a rare opportunity to start the conversation, to talk about things that aren’t already being talked about. When I look around online, I see a lot of the same kinds of conversations over and over, and the same tones. And when I participate, I notice myself choosing to fit into the same categories. But what if we get to decide what’s important to discuss? What if we get to decide how to discuss it?

Because I find it tragically hard to be myself in writing, I want all of you to be able to do it with grace. And I wonder what we could create if we practiced gently bringing more of ourselves to the table.

What would social media look like without fear?
Can we practice being okay with who we are there?

And can we bring patience with ourselves when we’re locked into our habits or frozen with inadequacy? There is real stuff to work through. The pain I go through trying to express what’s on my mind is real. The pain of looking at that pain is also real.

But the exchange of ideas is precious. As a community committed to bringing our practice from the cushion into the world, we have an opportunity to effect some change to online culture. We could offer little drops of freshness towards an internet that is more genuine. We could consider also how we read, noticing when we regard writers as human beings. We could do all this exploring right here.

I want to know what’s on your minds that you don’t dare share.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to share your writing in this space, please contact Ziji Collective Website Editor Alex W. Rodriguez at

Jenny Guth is part of the Ziji/30s&Under Group at the Boston Shambhala Center. She is one of the editors for this website.