"I think all this Facebook stuff should just stop!" said Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, at a recent Islamic convention. "Live your lives. Go out; take walks amongst trees."
I did a Google search on Facebook and Twitter addictions, and I got so many hits that I decided not to bother backing up claims of widespread social media addiction. Some people can't seem to get uninterrupted sleep through the night because of their cravings to check Facebook comments and messages and to see how many of their tweets are retweeted and faved.
The first thing people do, including I, when they wake up in the morning is log onto social-media platforms.
What's mind-boggling is that people have to disable social media networks to get their lives back and others have to go as far as to commit "Twittercide" to pull themselves together. I found several articles that offer self-help tips to overcome Facebook and Twitter addiction.
One tweeter who had to bid farewell to his 25,000 followers late last year wrote in his confessions published in the New York Times, "What did I get out of it? Certainly not fortune or fame -- on Twitter I was, for the most part, anonymous," wrote Larry Carlart. "But for me, every tweet was a performance."
He was fired from work because of his "performance" on Twitter and a month later he separated from his wife. And it is only fitting to let him tell you where he went wrong: "Instead of tweeting to reflect on my life, tweeting had become my life."
The idea of putting your 100 percent effort into carving a tweet is beyond me. I prefer to keep it simple and often steer away from tweeps who use foul language; it really irks me.
While parents have to draw a line for their kids using social media sites, we have to draw a line for ourselves. It's very easy to get carried away and spend hours checking updates, staring at pictures, adding people tagged in the pictures, adding from "People You May Know" list, and commenting on other's statuses.
Though it's is nice to get invites to random events and groups, one wonders what's the point of social media when you don't actually interact, exchange ideas and learn from others.
Just the other day, Mustafa Davis, a photographer and filmmaker, wrote on his Facebook status: "I really enjoy being constantly added to new totally random FB group pages. I feel obliged to start reciprocating all the joy by adding folks to some of my new pages, such as... Guppie Fish Rights Awareness page / I'm Not A Narcicist But Please Pay Attention To Me page / Foundation To Educate Blind Amazonian Monkeys In Antarctica page / I Don't Have A Real Idea For A Page But I'm Going To Start A Group Anyways page... also when you leave my group I'll think it was an accident so I'll add you back at least three or four more times."
That really happens. And it says a lot about our narcissistic tendencies, and our inability to use social media platforms for social interactions, learning and intellectual stimulation rather than as a source of procrastination.
Here are two thought-provoking Facebook statuses that made it worthwhile for me to log on to the site last week:
"There is a flower in the seed." - Imam Abdul Latif
"Majnun would stare at the full moon. When asked why, he replied: maybe Layla might look, too, & our glances meet." - Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
My interests are fairly obvious from the above two quotes. But if you're a techie, you can follow tech gurus; if you're a news buff, you can follow some of the top news people; if you're a poet, you can follow poets and join poetry groups. Be productive.
Social media is deemed addictive when it takes precedence over human interaction. And it's counterproductive when you're only stalking people.
The revered scholar made another interesting point in his talk is about taking pictures, which is somewhat related and relevant to our discussion here. "Stop taking pictures and start experiencing life," said Shaykh Yusuf.
Last year, a friend and I traveled to Luxor, with the aim to see all the major pharaonic sites. One evening, we watched the Karnak Sound and Light Show, during which I was more engrossed in taking pictures than listening to the walking tour. I had my reasons -- this was the only way I could get into the temple complex at night. And, you know what, the statue of Ramesses II looks beautiful against the blue skies in the backdrop.
Next morning, we revisited the Karnak temple and I ended up doing more or less the same. Even though we went from precinct to precinct, trying to understand the progression of skills incorporated by the artisans, and the nuances of gods and the commissioning pharaohs, I still walked out with a feeling of discontent.
So we went the third time with picnic comprised of dates and peanuts. Since I had enough pictures for my few active and exponentially more passive friends on Facebook, I enjoyed experiencing Karnac through the whites of my eyes. I positioned myself on the base of a column in the Precinct of Amun Re and relished the sunlight hitting the Hypostyle columns, which are chubby at the bottom and glutted with hieroglyphics. And it's the third visit that I remember most fondly when I think of the Luxor trip in my head.
It is worth experiencing life beyond the social media and seeing things with your naked eyes. And it is so much more beautiful to cherish the moment and to capture an image through your heart than to click away.