The Dangers of Social Media; Jealousy, Depression and What To Do About It
Posted on August 15, 2014
Last month I wrote a reflection piece on the lessons to be learned from the failed IMFW event. A lot of really great discussion took place as a result of the entire debacle and one comment in particular left on our blog post really struck a chord with many people. Juwairiyaa writes,
You said, "But let's be real - a lot of it is about pride and ego and feeding into a self-obsessed culture." I think this is the most significant point I have read about all this stuff. I am just like the majority of Muslim women, I like fashion. But when I discovered the world of "islamic fashion" on the web, I became obsessed and I hated myself because of that… following the lives of young and beautiful women, sharing with them the happiness of their family, admiring their notoriety around the world...and then...and finally...feeling something wrong...in fact, being jealous of them. I know what you may think, ‘poor girl, get a life!’ Yes, you are absolutely right. But basically, I have a wonderful life alhamdulillah! So what's wrong with me? What's wrong with my heart? Why do I feel paradoxically so sad and so happy when I go on FB, twitter, instagram, etc.? Let's share the responsibility of the problem.
I think we all can relate to Juwairiyaa’s sentiments. It’s a human problem that exists inside and outside the “hijab fashion” world. It happens not only with people we follow that we don’t know, but with our own friends and in some cases, family. I distinctly remember asking a friend of mine why she deactivated her facebook account; she replied bluntly, “I don’t want to give anyone the evil eye.” I thought her reply was so profound and self-aware. She’s a good person with a good heart and she realized that even good people like herself can subconsciously envy; that no one is immune from the ills of jealousy and envy.
This is not a new problem, but with the recent rise in Instagram, beyond other social media outlets where all you get is one snapshot at a time into someone’s life without much context or 68 other photographs preceding it like Facebook albums, it’s much easier to suffer from a distorted view of reality. On the flipside, as the person posting that photograph, there’s more pressure to post that money shot – the perfectly edited picture with the perfectly crafted caption and the ability to pick and choose exactly what and how you’d like to portray yourself.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets have fundamentally changed the way in which we socialize – particularly the way we’re perceived by others. Regardless of your personality type, everyone has a tendency to be affected by the things we see and read on social media. All those images we see don’t vanish from our memory. They set deep beneath your conscious awareness into your subconscious and you may start to feel depressed, jealous, resentful or suspicious without even knowing why. We all know and understand the phenomenon, but the question becomes, what can we do about it?
The answer is simple – know yourself. Dr. Umar Faruq Abdallah recently said, “You have got to know who you are and you have got to come to terms with yourself. To know yourself is to know your heart. Understand what your heart is and how it works. To know your heart, is to have a window to know God and to know (the structure) of reality. To be ignorant of our hearts, is to be ignorant of ourselves. And if I am ignorant of myself, how can I be knowledgeable of God? Those two do not go together.” To avoid the problems Juwairiyaa laid out so succinctly, you have to know yourself and what you can and cannot handle. If you know that following certain people (or group of people as is the case for Juwairiyaa), will make you feel anything less than great – don’t follow them. Out of sight, out of mind. If you don’t have that problem but for some reason lately you’ve been feeling a pinch of bitterness – take a break from it all. Reflect on the core of what’s making you feel this way. Ignoring these emotions and continuing to peruse these social media outlets will only make things worse.
The Prophet (S) warned against envy by comparing it to fire that completely burns wood. He (S) said, “Beware of jealousy, for verily it destroys good deeds the way fire destroys wood.” Jealousy/envy is a disease that manifests impurity into the heart. When the Prophet (S) was asked, “Who are the best of people?” He (S) replied, “The one with a clean heart and truthful tongue.” They asked, “We understand a truthful tongue, but what does a clean heart mean?” He (S) answered, “It is the heart of one that is pious, pure and is free of sin, transgressions, hatred and hasad (jealousy/envy).”
On the flipside, for those of us posting (I say “us” because I speak to myself first and foremost), pay attention to your intention. This is key. Why are you sharing that photo? What is the purpose behind your post? If there’s even an ounce of ill-intention, (to show-off, wanting to out-do someone else, make someone jealous, for others to perceive you in a certain way, in order to elicit a response that makes you feel good, “you’re sooo pretty!!!” etc.) then refrain from posting. What starts out as an ill-intended post will escalate into something worse, something deeper and harder to eradicate. Examine this ill-intention and dig deep to understand where it is coming from. Study the diseases of the heart and the cures for those diseases and work on ridding yourself of these ills. During this time, it’s probably best to keep a distance from social media altogether.
As Juwairiyaa writes, “Let's share the responsibility of the problem.” We all have to do our part to help alleviate this growing problem, whether you’re the one posting or the one following others. We must remember that the materials of this life do not make one superior to another. True superiority lies in taqwa (God-consciousness, awe of Allah (S)). Allah (S) in His infinite Wisdom has given some people more wealth, intelligence, beauty, strength, children, etc. than others. However, this doesn’t take away what Allah (S) has destined for ourselves. Allah (S) says, “Allah favored some of you over others with wealth and properties. Do they deny the favors of Allah?” (16:71). Further, “Do they envy men for what Allah has given them of His Bounty?” (4:54). We must be careful as jealousy can cause a person to indulge in disbelief because it causes the individual to feel that Allah (S) has not been fair with him; he forgets all the mercy and blessings which Allah (S) has bestowed upon him. As Juwairiyaa reminds herself, “I have a wonderful life alhamdulillah! So what's wrong with me? What's wrong with my heart?”
I’m not saying we should completely do away with all social media (although, for some people it really may be a good idea), but we need to examine the reasons for indulging in it. Are we using it to further good? To “enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil,” or are we allowing it to let be a feeding ground where diseases of the heart run wild? We all know that these outlets are not going to die out anytime soon, so let’s make sure we utilize these outlets positively and in a way that is pleasing to Allah (S). The last thing any of us wants on the Day of Judgment is to be blamed for activating the diseases of jealousy and envy, hatred, suspicion, distrust, etc. God knows best and may He (S) protect us all from these diseases of the heart, and from sparking these diseases in others, Ameen.