When was the last time you checked your countless social media apps to see the number of likes and shares for your post? Just a minute ago or within the last hour?
Since the growing popularity of social media a decade back, like-o-mania has affected many individuals. This is when we write and share posts, create pages and groups and spend quality time – all to fame in the virtual world of social media.
People nowadays have become addicted to uploading pictures of what they wear, things they cook and eat, places they go onto, their social media platforms; the list is endless!
According to a report by Informate Mobile Intelligence, an average 4.7 hours a day (a third of our day, if we are awake for 16 hours!) is spent on our smartphones. We must ask ourselves; if we are awake for 16 hours a day how much of this time is spent doing things that are useful?
How do our social media ‘timeline’ affect us as Muslims?
It is now incredibly easy to respond and react to anything and everything in our social media newsfeed. It has instilled an urge to react even to the matters of little concern sometimes solely for being noticed by people. However, the teachings of Islam tell us that we should not become involved in matters that do no good to anyone or can trick us to get into arguments; it can be even a false news.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said,
“Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him.” [Hadith Nawawi]
But, this is not what I want to shed light on, rather how the obsession of likes and shares steals away our excellence without us even knowing.
The main goal of social media sharing is to gain the attention of the people while boasting and taking pride in halal and haram activities that are posted. Here are some matters through which people attract attention on social media:
1. Religious duties
The sad reality is that the attention seeking behavior has crossed the boundaries and infiltrated our religious duties as well. More of worshippers are found busy filming themselves in Haramain rather than concentrating on worshipping Allah.
Quick tip: Keep your ibadah a secret!
2. Luxuries and food
It has become normal to see posts such as “I just checked into this star hotel!” and “here I’m with my brand new phone/laptop/car.” This gives validation to the individual as we show the whole world the material things that Allah blessed us with.
Quick tip: Instead of posting a picture of your latest gadget, make du’a to Allah that it will benefit you in this world and the Hereafter.
“Looking awesome, bro!” “Hey, you look beautiful!” These comments are like drugs for some and they just cannot live without them. They get into the habit of dressing up and posting pictures with deep quotes and then, chase those posts all day long to see how many likes and comments they get.
Quick tip: Next time you want to post a selfie, post a picture of a beautiful scenery or nature instead and ponder over Allah’s creation, so that we learn to detach from our ego. Believe that Allah is ‘Al-Musawwir’ (The Fashioner), who fashioned you in the best shape – you do not need to display and get approval from the world.
It is not just the happy moments, people also go on to share their agonies and painful moments with the whole world, be it a failed love story, a broken marriage or an ailment they may be suffering from.
Quick tip: In order to be successful, we are required to be patient during trials. Complaining to people contributes to being ungrateful towards the Lord and hence, should be avoided. We also end up exposing our weaknesses to friends and foes. So expose your problems only to Allah and seek His help.
5. Marital life
We may be living with the person in the same house, but it has become a trend (or an essential!) to post birthday wishes, anniversary wishes or grand declarations of love on networking sites. Gestures of love that should be personal and special between the husband and wife are uploaded for the whole world to see. This is as unpleasant as living in a house with glass walls all around, with all private on-goings made public for all to witness.
Quick tip: Instead of posting a romantic status, say these words to your spouse directly and watch how the love between you two grows.
Adverse effects of “like-o-mania”
It is a waste of time: We do not realize how much time we may be losing because of our attention seeking activities. Being obsessed and preoccupied in a continuous display of our looks, accessories, gadgets etc., and the urge to have the maximum number of likes, leads us to check and re-check our networking apps, upload new photos and update our check-in status every day. Thus, a large proportion of our time which we may have spent in actually improving our talents and productivity is spent browsing the smartphone like a dummy on a couch.
Increases obsession and insecurity: When we intend to gain worldly admiration, we try to increase the actions which give us likes and shares. Awake or asleep, on the prayer mat or at the dining table, our mind starts to worry about it! Gradually, worldly gain and loss start to matter more than internal peace and spirituality. Keeping an eye on what other people think about us, and what other people are doing, causes envy and jealousy, and a vicious cycle of competition.
At this point, we must remember that not every person who likes our uploads is necessarily happy about our success and happiness. And, when we step into the reality, it may be shocking to realize that we are not as admired by others as the number of likes on our pictures may suggest.
It disturbs and distracts others: While posting all the happy moments, new gadgets, tours and dining plates on social media, we need to be careful of the evil eye. The evil eye can cause a break in relationships, a fall in health and a loss of wealth and property.
Additionally, we must realize that many people out there are not blessed with what we have or may be in great need. The more we post about our material things, the more possible it is to sadden and distract people who have less than us. This can make them feel bad, ashamed or ungrateful for what they do not have.
It fosters riyaa‘ and insincerity: For any acts of worship or good deeds to be accepted, there are two conditions: It should be based on the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and, it should be done with the sincere intention to please Allah . Showing off in religious acts is called riyaa’. Riyaa’ means to perform acts which are pleasing to Allah with the intention of pleasing others.
Riyaa’ is not just limited to acts of worship like salah and sawm, but any good deeds such as giving charity or helping others that may be done to show off to the people rather than earning the pleasure of the most glorious Lord and it has a diminishing effect on our rewards. The Messenger of Allah said,
It instills pride: The person who makes a display of his blessings granted to him/her by Allah and gains ‘likes’ from people, believes him/herself to be admired by the people and may think oneself to be superior. While boasting and publicizing our luxuries, looks, and piety, we must remind ourselves of the stern warnings of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)
Ultimately, this will cause the worst form of pride, which is a result of boasting about our so-called piety. A person praised for piety and knowledge can begin to think him/herself free of weaknesses, mistakes, and sins. When s/he falls into this trap of pride by Shaytaan, s/he doesn’t hesitate in criticizing and humiliating others for their weaknesses and mistakes. If we behave in such a way, how can we be sure our good deeds are being accepted?
How to stop being an attention seeker?
Improve self-awareness: The main reason for making our life colorful with others’ paint is the lack of our own paint. We need to know and accept ourselves, and respect ourselves. We need to like ourselves and spend our time productively – this will ensure that we don’t need approval from others. Make a list of your good and bad behaviors from ‘your point of view’ and analyze why they are good or bad. Then, try to improve/eliminate/complement each one.
Develop self-control: People in the habit of attention seeking are engaged in compulsive uploading and following of posts. The moment we get such compulsive thoughts, we should remind ourselves that the acts which are worth doing and spending time after are those which are pleasing to Allah. Wasting an enormous time on networking sites will cause our productivity to decline and our personalities will become rotten. Having self-discipline when it comes to technology and social media is a huge benefit.
Time management: In order to limit the time spent on networking sites, we should dedicate a fixed time during the day to browse social media. Once we have this aim, we will come outside the realm of the virtual world of networking sites and get involved in the real world.
Seek attention from whom it matters
I would like to conclude that when certain wrong things are done in the society for a long time, they become a norm. Attention seeking through social media has also become a norm in the society despite its adverse effects. We must strive to break this vicious cycle. If we do wish to seek attention, we must strive to seek the attention of the inhabitants of heaven. What greater audience can we find than them?
Allah’s Messenger said: “When Allah loves a person, He calls Jibreel and says: ‘I love So and so, so love him.’ So Jibreel loves him, then he calls out to the people of heaven, ‘Allah loves So and so, so love him.’ So the people of heaven love him and he finds acceptance on earth.” [Sahih al-Bukhari]