I recently wrote about how new social media have been allowing meditators to come together in physical space in so-called meditation flash mobs. Now here is an example of new technologies enabling meditators to connect while physically dispersed. As reported on the Wildmind blog, the new Insight Timer app (for iOS and Android) has a function called Insight Connect that allows registered users to see who is currently meditating around the world (looking at the website, there is an interactive map that shows that there are 181 people currently meditating with the app).
According to the app’s creator, Brad Fulmer, “The idea behind the community part is to provide the experience of being part of a meditation group even though you may be meditating alone.” So, a bit like the flash mobs, the app is designed to overcome the potential isolation associated with meditation and to turn it into a collective practice.
Looking at the video demonstration below, I see that the app also has a lot of social media functions that allow people to “friend” other users and to compare achievements. I could see the system of displaying achievements could lead to a subtle competition for status, although this social aspect is perhaps not a bad thing.
The use of the mobile apps in this way reminds me of Benedict Anderson’s argument in Imagined Communities that new forms of literature like the novel and the newspaper that emerged in the modern era helped to create the sense of simultaneousness, of a shared experience of time, which allowed people to be able to imagine themselves as being part of a nation. When people read the daily newspaper, so the argument goes (and my memory might not be totally accurate), in the back of their mind they imagined other people around the nation doing the same thing. It’s not hard to see how an app of this kind could contribute to a sense of shared time and the experience of being part of an imagined transnational community of co-practitioners.
I’ve downloaded the app and plan to try it out. I’m interested to see what the experience is like if it does produce the sort of sensibility its creators intended.