Many worries and stresses of work, school, family, friends, and relationships often occupy our lives.…
One of life’s challenges is learning to focus on ourselves and limit our judgment of others. We live in a world where we follow people on social media platforms and know a great deal about what they are doing. Sometimes we see them doing things we do not like or agree with, and we become uncomfortable. Eventually, we end up stalking people on social media and start judging, criticizing, and talking badly about them simply because we do not agree with the decisions they make. To avoid falling into this trap, we should teach ourselves to keep away from situations that do not concern us. Narrations tell us that the Prophet (pbuh&hp) said, “The greatest of people is the one who avoids what does not concern him.”1
Scrolling through our social media feeds, we often come across individuals we know who are acting in ways that differ from our own values. We are not happy with what we see and start getting upset, frustrated, and angry about things that do not concern us. We then begin to waste much of our time passing judgment on them while our to-do list gets longer and longer. One reason these negative emotions appear is that we are unable to control someone else’s actions.
Without realizing, we eventually fall into a river of sins where we find ourselves backbiting, judging, and criticizing others. This will lead to feelings of guilt and regret especially when the things we may have said or thought were not true. Hence, we need to train ourselves to let go of the things and people that do not affect or involve us in any way and focus on our own journey in this life.
Another major downfall of engaging with others on social media platforms is how it may cause us to compare ourselves to others. In a world that is all about instant gratification and “likes,” most people post images of themselves or their families engaging in fun and exciting activities that are certainly not a perfect exemplar of their lives. We may look at others enjoying delicious foods or on vacation and build up jealousy in our hearts towards them. This also hurts our confidence and may trigger our own insecurities. For example, if we see an image of someone carrying an expensive brand-name product, we may look at ourselves and feel unworthy because we are unable to afford such things. Even though it may seem illogical, “Our emotional responses to such images can be so strong that they completely overpower our sense of logic.”2
We forget that people usually only post positive aspects of their lives. They avoid sharing their problems, struggles, and difficulties. Remember, every person has hardships, obstacles, and challenges they are dealing with even if they do not share them online. Therefore, we must remember not to compare ourselves to these images.
The first step is to recognize that this is our problem to work on. Secondly, we need to become more self-aware. For many of us, this is a very hard step to take and requires practice. This can help us take control of our thoughts and actions before they become dangerous (physically and mentally). For example, if we are in an uncomfortable situation and it does not affect us in any way, we should be able to realize this and pull ourselves away from the scene. By doing so, we are allowing ourselves to have more control of things that do have an impact on us.
Furthermore, we should avoid judging others by gossiping and engaging in unwarranted criticism and should respect them for who they are. Taking these initial steps will help free much of our time to do positive things to help us create a more open and welcoming environment. Instead of wasting our time on things we have no control over, we can use this precious time to focus on more important tasks like getting our work done, making up prayers, or spending quality time with family and friends.
Bits of Advice
1. Practice self-awareness: Jealousy, envy, and backbiting plague all of us at different points in our lives, and it is important that we do our best to perfect our character and improve our self-awareness. Improvement is a journey, and it is vital to turn back to the Creator throughout our lives, even for something as simple as our inappropriate engagement on social media. We need to hold ourselves accountable, for traditions by Imam Musa al-Kadhim (p) tell us, “The one who does not hold themselves to account every day, is not from us.”3 In other words, we should check ourselves and see how we are comparing ourselves to others or getting involved in business that does not concern us.
2. Manage our time: Occasionally, we need to disengage from the online world and fellow netizens, because it can consume us and take us away from that which is far more important.
3. Use social media for good: Although there are several negative effects, social media can also be a tool to make a difference. From fundraising campaigns, to sharing knowledge, to connecting with friends and family, let our engagement be a positive experience so that we reap benefits in this life and the next.
4. Go on a digital detox: Many people suffer from social media addiction and find it extremely difficult to disconnect and disengage from the online world. It is important to train our brains to relinquish this dependency from time to time. Easy steps that we can take to reduce time online is to turn off push notifications, select daily times when we will not look at our phones (such as early in the morning or at night before going to bed), or simply to leave the phone in our room when spending time with family and friends at home. These small steps can help to tremendously reduce social media addiction and allow one to live in the moment instead of online.
1. Al-Saduq, Al-amali, p. 73.
2. Holland, Emily, “Why We Compare Ourselves to Others on Social Media and How to Stop,” accessed February 1, 2021, https://www.citationmachine.net/chicago/cite-a-website.
3. Al-Mufid, Al-ikhtisas, p. 26. Sin
1. روي عن النبي (ص): “أعظم الناس قدرا من ترك ما لا يعنيه”
3. روي عن الإمام موسى الكاظم (ع): “ليس منا من لم يحاسب نفسه في كل يوم”