Assalamu ‘Alaikum Warahmat Allah Wabarakatuh,
I was sent the link to the post ”Life after Obedience… Life after Facebook” written by brother L Ahmed 08 yesterday about facebook and posted on another blog. His obvious love for the Jama’at and our beloved Hudur (ayyadahu Allah ta’ala bi-nasrihi al-‘aziz) spurred me on to pen something about it myself.
My First Facebook Experience
I recall joining facebook many years ago. This was when it was at quite an early stage – just as it was becoming viral. I was immediately linked to everyone in my then hotmail account and so became happy to see so many friends online – living some distance from most people, this offered me a new way to stay close. The problem was that as I began to go on my friends accounts I felt more and more uneasy. I saw pictures of other users, and the names of ladies on my friend’s pages who generally shared the same surname as my friends. They were the sisters, cousins and fellow Jama’at members of my friends. I was then confronted with humerous page comments posted between family members which under any other circumstances would be reserved for the four walls of the home. Don’t get me wrong, there was little that was lude or in bad taste, but just ordinary comments you would usually only find in one’s home. And then there were pictures of people scattered everywhere. That made me very uncomfortable. I recall one young lady who I had said salam to along with her brother, a good friend, when I met them on the street one day. When I met them on the street, my natural reaction was to lower my gaze, increase my humility as she was not only a lady, but a Muslim lady – even more, the sister of my friend. Yet, on facebook I was presented with her picture and a string of her comments which, if I had read them, would have given me an insight into her personality and character. An insight that she most certainly would not have shared with me in person.
Anyhow, to cut to the chase, I deactivated my account within about 20 minutes and never looked back. The gut feeling that I had was that the space that these people had created for themselves was not my space. Furthermore, my nature does not incline me to want to know who people’s female relatives are, what they look like and what kind of personal thoughts they have. If, for example, a friend came up to me and said that he had seen my sister on facebook, saw her picture and thought that she was a really nice person from her comments, well…! Let’s just say that I would feel like my family space was invaded and a sense of anger that a friend would have betrayed our mutual trust and friendship. The reality is, though, that few people would say that; they would just look, digest and then keep it to themselves. And that, my friends, is the real danger of facebook.
On a quick side note, after years of being on this planet, I had not known even a single young Ahmadi lady’s name, just the name of the odd kind Aunty. You may find that odd, but it was the truth. Yet, in the space of twenty minutes I had access to the names of countless people. How can that be right?
I also wanted to make mention of another aspect of facebook, namely pictures. In Islam there are clear rules about purda / modest dress. Pause your mental process for a second – now associate the word ”men” with ”purda / modesty” and not just ”women” as is so typical (men do have to be modest too, you know). Anyhow, why do so many people, Ahmadi or non-Ahmadi, have an obsession with uploading their pictures onto facebook? Particularly those pictures where they are not dressed how they should be – that is, if they want to dress as a Muslim should? I honestly cannot understand the mental process here, i.e., we know the Qur’an sets out the rules of modesty, we act upon those rules when out and about, but it’s alright to upload pictures onto facebook of ourselves dressed immodestly? A simple rule of thumb, do not upload any pictures of yourself or family members, onto any site, which do not represent how you would dress when you leave your home. In fact, I’m not sure why anyone would want to upload their pictures full-stop. The final point to be made here is: why on earth would anyone want to post their wedding pictures, open access, on any public forum? As far as I am concerned, that is an act of utter contempt! Putting aside the bride and her family for a moment, ladies are invited to weddings, they attend and enjoy in the bride’s happiness – Alhamdulillah, Allah bless you bheti, Allah bless you both with children and long lives, etc. These ladies remove their scarves, take off their outergarments and all because they want to be free and happy, and, most of all, because they enter into an unwritten moral contract of trust (that sounds very legal) with the wedding hosts (i.e., no men will come in, no male photographers, no photos of women to be shown to non-mahrams afterwards, etc.). Then, low and behold, extensive wedding albums end up online. No words to say except for ”shame on them.”
Again, everything that I have been talking about above points towards the fact that on facebook people extend their private spaces into the public sphere and that is just wrong for a Muslim. So please, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters (all relatives), protect the dignity of your families and keep the joy and great happiness of the home within the home. Make your castle a moral fortress. Conversely, anyone who’s eyes happen to fall upon such accounts, and you are not a ”mahram” relative, please understand that the second glance (or obsessive look, as is sometimes the case) is a trespass, it is to usurp the privacy of others. Such things leave one accountable before Almighty Allah – this much we know for sure.
School / University
Let me roll back to my University years. I was sat one afternoon in the University cafeteria and could not believe that just a week before exams I could see students in the courtyard below, all non-Muslim, downing pint after pint of alcohol each day. The sheer irresponsibility. Change of venue, now I am on a computer in one of the computer labs and next to me are several non-Ahmadi Muslim classmates. Word documents change, research pages vary, music tracks move on, but the one constant was the immovable facebook pages open. I observed my classmates literally spending hours on facebook – this was their alcohol. Guess what the main attraction was? Girls. I was always quite frank with everyone I knew and used to say to them: brothers, what are you doing… you know this isnt right? The response was always the same: bro, I know I shouldn’t and it’s a complete waste of time, but what can you do, innit! Well, I guess there was no harm, dating a girl online is OK, isn’t it? I mean it’s not like they were dating in person – there is no chance of the physical boundaries of sanctity being trespassed upon, is there? So said the fool as he neared the canyon’s edge. Anyway, their work would be interrupted by all the guys gathering to assess who the physical appearance of the girls they were each facebook-dating – jokes flying in the air about how lucky or desperate they each were depending on what their facebook girlfriend looked like – and, of course, the girls would have loads of pictures uploaded. I used to bid my classmates farewell and then stand up only for a big smerk to appear on my face as I looked across at an ocean of lemmings on facebook, right across the enormous computer lab (no racial, gender or religious norms here, pretty much everyone was on it). Most will have read what I just wrote and relate to it word for word because this is the reality. For those who think I exagerated the facts, take a look at the stats taken from facebook itself:
- More than 750 million active users
- 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
- Average user has 130 friends
- People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
- There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
- Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
- Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
- More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.
- There are more than 250 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
- People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
- There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products
I guess the 700 billion minutes a month spent on facebook are educational minutes, arent they? I personally laugh when the old ”facebook is educational” line is thrown about. Jstor is educational, Wikipedia is educational, scribd is educational, the thousand and one University resources that every University library page advertises are educational – facebook is not. If you do not believe me: young people show me, parents as your kids to show you, where on a single University library resources page is facebook listed?
The issues are obvious, the dangers manifest. My beloved Hudur (ayyadahu Allah ta’ala bi-nasrihi al-‘aziz) has usurped nobody’s rights by the recent guidance regarding facebook, something that is spouted about these days by many anti-Ahmadis and some hypocrites. The reality is that many people, be they Ahmadi Muslim or non-Ahmadi Muslim, have themselves exceeded their own rights and boundaries for far too long and that such guidance should not have even been necessary. The distinction between right and wrong is clear – let common sense prevail in the future. May Almighty Allah bless my beloved Hudur (ayyadahu Allah bi-nasrihi al’aziz) for once again reminding us of the difference between right and wrong.
Finally, if you think that everything I have written is mere moot, see what Dr. Aric Sigman has written about this. He is not a Muslim and advises governments and official public bodies on these matters as he is a renowned biologist. ”Well Connected? The biological implications of social networking.”
Related News Items
- Dangers of Facebook for Teens – ”Teens who regularly use Facebook and Myspace are much more likely than social network avoiders to drink, smoke and use marijuana.”
- What Not to Share on Facebook – ”They have a lot of trust that social networking providers will keep their information safe but they (providers) benefit from people having open profiles.”
- Facebook ban for teenager – Teen banned by court from using ‘Social Networking” sites for 12 months.
- Facebook is a major influence on girls – survey finds that 40% of 8-15 yr old girls see facebook as the most important part of their lives.
- Call for facebook ban on alcohol adds.
- Child Line – Cyber bullying