I wonder lately if I am benefitting from the back and forth in forums.
Generally speaking, I do benefit, but there is a price to be paid sometimes, IMHO. I find that forums are not a collection of role models. The down side of that is that I get to read periodic posts that make me wonder just where the Buddha is in all that. That actually helps remind me not get deep into "me and mine." Seeing someone else do it serves as a good reminder of just how often I do it, too.
The up side, for me, is that there are sometimes some real gems that are posted. Sometimes they answer a question that I didn't know I even had. Sometimes they point the way to something I've been looking for. Sometimes they post the source in Sutta, which I really appreciate!
Probably the biggest benefit, though, is how it shows that I have little equanimity in my practice. Why does a topic matter so much that my passion rises? Whether in agreement or disagreement, when was "I" elected to be a judge of what's right or wrong? Why do I pick up a particular topic, for the benefit of the other or to benefit myself? And if it's "for the other person," is the payoff really that I get one of the worldly concerns?
The price I pay is getting discouraged. I look at some of the alleged old-timers and expect to see a better performing version than I am. I look at those not so old-time and wonder why all of them are such a mixed bag of behavior. It's just more of "I/me/mine" that's operating, of course, but I really wish that all electronic Buddhists were wonderful, kind, practicing the Brahmaviharas, etc. On my better days I understand that everyone is just a human trapped in Samsara, and even the Buddhists are various degrees of "accomplished." So I need to quit evaluating them and wondering where the Buddha is in their behavior. It's when "my expectations for Buddhists" aren't being met that I get discouraged - pretty good example of creating my own suffering - huh? At least I sometimes catch it now and can ask myself the same question, " Where is the Buddha in what I am doing right now?"
Retreat, teachers and study seem to be the common tools for making headway and that's what I'm about to do again. There's nothing within hours in the way of teachers and retreats so I engineer my own from time to time. I become more reclusive and study Sutta more, pick up my dropped habits of sitting and mindful meditation, etc. The other thing I do is drop way off from forum reading because I find that my information needs are better met in Sutta, especially when I'm in retreat mode.
I don't know if you will find my rambling useful or not, Anna. It's just what came to mind when I read your post and I thought I'd share it with you.