Striking the balance with social media

How do I strike the right balance with using social media from an Islamic perspective, given the
fact that it is mainstream and people are unlikely to stop using it altogether?

Social media is a hot topic in the media right now. There are numerous debates around how social media can be damaging for society, particularly for young people. However, it doesn’t appear to be something that is going to disappear anytime soon. If anything, there are more people consuming social media content every day at an increasing rate. For many, it is an integral part of their daily routine: Wake up. Check social media. Eat. Check social media. Sleep.

I don’t use social media, do I?

People access social media sites or apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp etc via devices, whether that’s a desktop, tablet or a smartphone. As users engage with these services via their devices, they are able to interact with other people by sharing and receiving information online – that is the key outcome once you get past all the technology.

As a result, people can maintain social connections and support networks that otherwise wouldn’t be possible, and can access more information than ever before in a really quick and simple way.

Due to recent media attention and political pressure, a number of guidelines are being published to teach young people about the dangers of social media. These guidelines include how to deal with trolling, being mindful about something going viral, going too far with dangerous risks to attract attention and understanding the consequences of posting something offensive online.

But what about guidelines for social media from an Islamic perspective?

As long as we are not engaging in anything haram on social media, then we are ok, right? I mean there is no harm spending hours watching clips on football, fashion or something funny. Or is there?

One of the dangers of social media is time wasting. This is often the case for many people who find it hard to deal with reality or are bored and turn to social media for escapism – hoping that each click will be meaningful and make them feel better.

So why is this such a big deal?

One of the best ways to demonstrate this is through the first few ayahs of Tafseer of surah-al-asr,
which states:
“I swear by time, man is in a state of loss indeed, except for those who believed and did righteous
deeds”

In this surah, Allah swears by time itself that mankind is in a state of perpetual loss. The reality is
that the day of judgement is getting closer and every second is bringing us closer to our eventual
death. We are meant to be harvesting our time in this Dunya for the hereafter, but instead, we are
spending five or six hours a day looking at social media thinking that it is productive when in fact we are just killing time. So how do we save ourselves? Allah clearly states in this surah that those who believe and perform righteous deeds will save themselves from loss. In other words, the almighty is referring to those people who are productive and use their time efficiently for Allah’s sake in this dunya.

The famous and well-known scholar, Ibn Kathir, explained that this surah is a clear warning to believers that if they don’t maximise their time for the hereafter then they will be doomed.

So what is the best way to approach this issue? Let’s be honest, throwing away your smartphone or shutting down from social media altogether is not going to be realistic or practical for many people.

Let’s not forget, if social media is used appropriately it can an effective way for friends and family to stay connected and has improved collaboration and productivity for Islamic initiatives such as
promoting events and charity work. In fact, with social media, you can subscribe to well-known sheikhs and get access to knowledge with a click of a button, irrespective of where you are in the
world.

In my humble opinion, the solution is striking the right balance.

My practical advice is to try to limit your time on social media to at least 30 minutes each day, and
supplement every football, fashion or funny video with a short Islamic reminder clip. A good
example is Mufti Menk’s short reminders on Instagram but there are many others. Better still, try to get people together to spread the positive message of Islam on social media channels or use it to initiate campaigns to help your local community and neighbours with social issues.

Take this first practical step and inshallah you will see the improvements over time. Not only will Allah be more pleased with you and place more blessings in your life, but you will also feel much more happy and content with your daily life. After all, isn’t that what every believer wants?

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