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Imam Ali and the Perils of Social Media

with social media, we can peer into the lives of our friends and families in mere seconds and form opinions about them, while at the same time gauging the quality of our own lives in comparison to theirs.

With the advent of social media and the unprecedented advancement in technological devices, most of which can fit into the palm of our hand, our society is experiencing a great shift. It is a shift that has brought about significant changes in how our society operates. While there are many positive ways in which we may use social media, such as in furthering educational and humanitarian causes, we must be mindful of the potentially detrimental effects of improper use of these powerful platforms. For instance, with social media, we can peer into the lives of our friends and families in mere seconds and form opinions about them, while at the same time gauging the quality of our own lives in comparison to theirs.

This can result in countless hours spent on social media platforms, resulting in an unending desire for more. Sometimes, this may come at the expense of our own privacy, and other times we may engage in online banter that we later regret. Narrations tell us that Imam Ali (p) said, “He who is greedy is disgraced, He who discloses his hardship will always be humiliated, he who allows his tongue to take control over him has underestimated himself.”

“He who is greedy is disgraced”

On social media, most people post highlights of their lives—things that will reaffirm the notion that their lives are perfect. As onlookers, we look at the lives of others and may begin to crave the things that they have, to want to live the kind of “ideal” life that they are living, and we may feel increasingly dissatisfied with what we have. Instead of being grateful for all that God has given us, we may begin to feel an inordinate desire for attention and validation, in what  appears to be a form of perpetual greed. When people succumb to such unending greed, they greatly lower their feeling of self-worth and may be willing to compromise their faith. When we compromise our faith, we may be willing to go to any length to fulfill our dangerous need for temporal goods. Not only are we disgraced in society for compromising on our faith, but most importantly we are disgraced in front of God, as the Holy Quran says, “The recompense for the evil deeds will be equally evil (not more) and the faces of the evil-doers will suffer from disgrace.” Additionally, we should be thankful for all that we have and not let the frivolities of social media dictate our life choices and tamper with our faith, because no one leads a perfect life and everyone faces hardships.

“He who discloses his hardship will always be humiliated”

Another common theme that is rampant on social media is the constant need to complain about the hardships of life. Often, people will air out their grievances on social platforms for everyone to see and read. The truth is that everyone is battling their own demons and trying to overcome struggles, but those who rely on prayer and exercise patience succeed in the end. No one except for God can solve our problems. Instead of making our problems public, we should communicate them to God through prayer and devotion. Only God can help us get through difficulties in life, because no other human being can help us in ways that God can.

“He who has no control over his tongue will often have to face discomfort”

To some, social media has made the world smaller, but to others, it may have done the complete opposite. For some people, social media may have made them more distant and impulsive. They may type before they think, and in some cases, they may have started to become increasingly critical of others. As followers of Ahl al-Bayt (pbut), we should be following their example of compassion and acceptance and be mindful of what we say or type. Throughout life, we will encounter people of many different faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Instead of judgment, we should embrace our differences and spread kindness and acceptance the way our Imams (p) did. Today, we see examples of people attacking those who have  different opinions or ways of life. We also see examples of people who have severed ties with their loved ones because of misinterpreted texts and impersonal social media interactions. These forms of communication are no substitute for real human bonding.

Tips for good social media etiquette

  1. Think before you type. Do not be hasty in responding to others and make sure that whatever you say does not hurt someone else. The tongue of a believer is behind his heart [mind], when he wants to say something he thinks about it in his heart [mind] then he says it, and the tongue of a hypocrite is before his heart [mind] when he wants to say something he says it without thinking about it in his heart [mind].”
  2. Be mindful of others. The sixth Imam (p) is reported to have said, “Show respect for your friends and dignify them. Do not be aggressive to each other [and] do not harm or envy each other.” Those who tend to be critical of others, because of their differing viewpoints or lifestyles, often find themselves falling from the good graces of everyone around them. It is better to be considerate and understanding of others and their beliefs than to be impolite and disparaging.

3. Refrain from oversharing.  Be careful of what you post on social platforms, because once you hit “send” on that picture, video, or text message, there is no going back. An inappropriate picture, video, or message could be the cause of lifelong embarrassment for you and your family.

The article first published in imam-us.org

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