Social media is amazing in connecting people, exchanging ideas and sharing good and bad news. However social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter give us content that unfortunately isn’t always supportive of our values. Unfortunately, what gets the most followers, shares and comments is what’s liked, which is usually lewd or offensive content. More divisive content is pushed causing more polarisation. It doesn’t build cooperative networking, instead, it divides people creating animosity. If we followed the moral values of kindness, care, honesty, generosity, forgiveness and patience we would be safe.
Everybody believes in free speech, and no one likes censorship, however, there is a fine balance to be struck. Good people like to be friendly and have constructive debates. We should be able to discuss complex topics with civility. But social media is full of over-talkers. The one who not only talks over people but proudly recalls his unremarkable day, and tells you the stories you have already heard. Are you one of them? The thoughtful person on the other hand is discerning and only speaks when necessary. They are not big-headed.
The prevalence of fake news
In the age of fake news, how can we show self-control and speak thoughtfully after getting all the facts and ensure we verify the claims? When we’re asked a question, hear some news, or read a tweet, just hold back before replying or sharing. It’s better to say “I don’t know” rather than regret it afterwards. Make sure you’ve checked the facts, and what you are saying is correct, have you got a reference for it? Our scholars were meticulous about checking the facts, Imam Muslim, a master of Science of Hadith, said ‘To narrate everything one hears is enough of a lie’ (Introduction to Muslim).
The Prophet warned against false social media experts
The damage caused by fake news can be far-reaching and ruin people’s lives. As half-truths are shared, and retweeted on social media they become viral and within minutes reach thousands of inquisitive and starving phones. A disciple saw a dream, where there was a man whose face was mutilated, the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained that this man whose nostrils, mouth and eyes were disfigured represented a man who leaves home in the morning and tells lies that spread quickly (Bukhari). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: ‘A person who says thoughtless words will end up in hell fire, the more they speak the deeper they sink’ (Bukhari).
The hadith describes self-claimed leaders as Ruwaybiḍah – experts of social media – unqualified to lead or speak to people but have a mass following. ‘It will be the time of fake news, the liars are believed and the truthful are banned, the Ruwaybiḍah will deliver speeches.’ It was asked, ‘Who are the Ruwaybiḍah?’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) responded, ‘Malicious men with authority over the common people’ (Ibn Majah). This is in contrast to the truths of the Quran and Sunnah that must be spread, “Take my teachings and share them with everyone, even if it is one verse, you can also share the biblical stories, there’s no problem with that. And whoever deliberately tells a lie about me will be thrown into hell” (Bukhari).
The benefits of silence and abandoning social media
When you give up social media you will have more time for your family. You’ll talk more, share and laugh with each other and build stronger relationships. You will visit more friends, and go on walks, that will make you healthy. The Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “The believer in Allah and the last day only says pleasant things or stays silent” (Bukhari).
Five rules to stop over-talking on social media
- Remain silent, scientists believe that silence helps the growth of new brain cells. This coming down of the brain activity during silence may explain why you can kick-start creativity.
- Don’t say anything, sometimes it’s wise to say nothing. Imagine your words are pounds and dollars now think how wisely you will spend them.
- Learn to pause, take a deep breath, stop and listen carefully and allow the listener to process your speech.
- Learn to listen, we can be hearing the words, but remain oblivious, not paying attention. So, learn to listen actively, and pay attention to what the other person is saying. Understand their meanings, a sign of good listening is asking questions.
- Leave social media, many of us overdo social media, so a good policy would be to give it up, at least for a while.
Quranic principles for sharing news on social media
Here are Quranic passages from Surat Al-Hujurat that will guide you on how to create and consume social media content. The principles were laid down 14 centuries ago, this shows how relevant the book of Allah is today.
- When you hear news check the facts: “Believers when a crooked person brings you news, then check it in case you cause harm to others ignorantly, and then later regret what you did” (Al-Hujurat: 6).
- Don’t mock, call names, or speak ill: “Believers! Let no man make fun of another, he may be better than him; no woman should make fun of others they may be better than them, nor speak ill of one another nor use offensive nicknames for one another. How bad it is for a faithful person to be called ‘a crook’. Those who do not turn away from such behaviour are wicked” (Al-Hujurat: 11).
- It’s forbidden to be suspicious, spy, hate or backbite: “Believers do not be suspicious, since some suspicions are sins. Neither spy on one another nor backbite about each other. Would anyone of you like to eat the meat of his dead brother? Never! You would hate it. So be mindful of Allah. Allah is indeed most Forgiving, caring” (Al-Hujurat: 12).