By Amina Edota
Chubby little fingers swiping away.
Cool, trendy headphones plugged in.
2 pairs of eyes glued to a giant screen.
Quick tapping sounds punctuating the silence.
Each lost and mesmerized in a digital world of their own.
Can you guess where this could be? No, it’s not a scene from Google headquarters or a geeky tech advert. It’s a small family spending an evening together – physically connected in the same room yet emotionally disconnected.
The easy access to mobile and handy devices has broken many barriers. Yet, it also makes it easy to form negative digital habits. It is very much like a disease – fast spreading and instantly contagious. Its disease-like nature has crept into many hearts, homes and relationships; replacing good communication and quality time with isolation and real life disconnect.
Yes, digital media has surely come with its fair share of negatives, while disrupting the norm in many lives. In fact, it is fast becoming the new world order. Or has it become already? Now is the time to get digital smart.
Negative Digital Habits:
Following are some negative digital habits and their respective solutions:
1) Disconnection from Allah (SWT)
The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Allah said: “The son of Adam hurts Me by abusing Time, for I am Time; in My Hands are all things and I cause the revolution of night and day.’ ” [Bukhari]
A) Keeping your phone in sight during prayers in order to see, as well as hear all incoming calls.
Switch off phone/ other devices (or put in silent mode or in another room) at important times such prayer times, siesta and bedtime. This will allow you to focus on your primary responsibilities without digital distractions e.g., worship, family, studies, health etc. ‘Unplug’ to take digital breaks. Instead, do something physical and rewarding e.g., get outdoors, attend a class, take a walk, read a book, write in a journal, visit a neighbor. Start and end your day on a digital low – zero or minimum engagement with digital devices. Turn off all push notifications on your phone. You can also leave it on airplane mode.
B) Gaming, browsing and chatting without limit, to the extent of delaying or missing salah.
Always ask yourself WHY when engaging with your device (all of your actions will be based on the intention). Treat your devices as a huge Amanah (trust) that you will be questioned about. So take yourself into account before you are asked to account. Begin your day with gratitude and remembrance that will nourish your mind, body and soul NOT feeding your desires with the latest digital trends, updates and news.
C) Seeking for knowledge solely from Sheikh Google, other browsers and social media.
Engage in some ‘digital hustling’ for dawah purpose and aim for rewards beyond this temporary dunya. You can do this through positive online participation and engagement; as well as contributing your writing, videos, art etc.
2) Disconnection from family and friends
”O you who have believed, protect yourselves and your families from a Fire whose fuel is people and stones, over which are [appointed] angels, harsh and severe; they do not disobey Allah in what He commands them but do what they are commanded.” [Qur’an; 66:6]
A) Showing poor morals by ignoring those in your company in order to engage actively in virtual conversations.
Schedule learning/ family/ outdoor time with full interaction, leaving out phones and other devices. Decide on a ‘no technology day’ at the weekend or at particular times each day such as meal times. Simply disconnect from the Internet and disengage from all technologies.
B) Wasting time competing to post unnecessary updates to keep up with trends of *virtual friends*.
If you’re a parent or a teacher, set parental controls on games and gaming devices. Put up internet filters and set appropriate protection for Internet use. Monitor and set time limits for you and your children/ students’ Internet usage. Be an example, model what you want to see. Use digital media in moderation and with good manners.
C) Continuous stress and distraction by checking updates every few minutes.
Create and contribute purposeful digital content like reviews, design, artwork, coding etc. Don’t be consumers only.
3) Disconnection from a good cause in the community:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) as saying: Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amir (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman is a shepherdess in charge of her husband’s house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man’s slave is a shepherd in charge of his master’s property and he is responsible for it…[Abu Dawud]
A) Engaging in arguments and fruitless debates about what does not concern you; so you become known as a troublemaker.
Model good manners and the sunnah by leading through a good example. Set up a fairly regular posting schedule for business or dawah purpose and stick to it. Avoid unnecessary lingering and chats online.
B) More interested in new profile looks and taking selfies than in contributing to important community issues.
Enjoin the right, forbid the wrong and call to the truth. Create online volunteer roles and other beneficial opportunities to engage people digitally.
C) Forwarding false and suspicious information without confirming first.
“The Messenger of Allah passed by two new graves, and he said: ‘They are being punished, but they are not being punished for anything major. One of them was heedless about preventing urine from getting on his clothes, and the other used to walk about spreading malicious gossip.'” [Ibn Majah]
As a youth, parent or leader; ensure that for every digital habit you nurture, you make these your guiding principles:
> Utilise your time wisely.
> Make purposeful choices.
> Take charge and be in control.
> Take note of your recording angels.
> Build and model good communication skills.
Digital media has come to stay and remains a chosen way of life for many.
Those likes, shares, comments, badges, emojis, ads, free offers, funny videos – all give a quick high and have become the accepted norm and standard form of digital communication.
Let’s make a conscious effort to lessen our digital dependence. Let’s end the battle within us to conform to negative digital norms. Let’s begin a recovery journey from our digital addiction.
Let’s disconnect from digital media to connect with real people and things that matter beyond the digital world.
Author’s Bio: Amina Edota is the author of The Savvy Muslim Youth Manifesto, an empowerment manual for Muslim youth. She is the chief mentor at YouthlyHub.com. As a passionate writer, educator, and entrepreneur – she is on a mission to support Muslim youth, their parents/educators and organizations to nurture true ambassadors of Islam.