Sometimes I wonder if we understand
Islam as it should be understood. Sometimes it’s hard to strengthen our
faith amidst all these distractions. Sometimes we’re confused about what we
want or what our next steps should be. Sometimes we need to take a moment
and reflect on what matters most. And because we live in such uncertain times
with so much going on around us, I guess sometimes we’ve just
got to sit down and talk about it. In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. So, I went on a road trip recently.
I went to USA when Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba) was on the USA tour. So, I drove down to
Philadelphia and on this trip, I sort of realized how dependent I was on my GPS.
I mean if I didn’t have any sort of data on my cell phone or any sort of GPS signal,
I’d just be lost in some random city, right? But I mean, I also remember when we were
kids and we would go on family road trips, our parents would have the map set out,
and they would chalk out with a red marker, the route that we would take. And just, I mean, how times have changed over the
last 10-15 years and we’ve become so accustomed to these things. I mean, I literally can’t drive
anywhere without using my GPS anymore. Like that’s probably a bad thing,
but technology has its pros and its cons – it has many benefits and it has harms as well.
And you know, Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba) this year, Jalsa Salana UK 2018, in his address to ladies,
he was speaking about some of the harms of technology and how detrimental
some things have been within the families, you know, it’s broken homes apart.
So, what can we speak to, the benefits and harms of these technology and these
devices that we have? I think it’s – technology is like getting a new
toy. Initially when you get it, you’re so excited, the kids, they spend so much time on it
and they forget about everything else. Even parents – it’s time to eat or sleep or do
your homework and they don’t want to do this. They say, no, I want to play with this and you
don’t realize – but with technology the issue is that those kids eventually they get tired of
that toy and then they get back to their routine. But with technology the issue is
that that advancement is so rapid, everyday there is something new. For example, let’s say if you’re talking about
YouTube, everyday so much content is being added, so you become addicted to these things.
So that, so-to-speak, excitement, is always there. And as a result of that, I think that is exactly
what Huzoor (aba) was talking about and Huzoor (aba) has mentioned that
sometimes, for example, sometimes you’re sitting on YouTube, or some other service
and you start watching and that two minutes, it turns into ten minutes and sometimes, it turns
into an hour. And same thing with social apps. You’re like, let me just check what messages
did I get, right? And then you’re checking and checking and before you know it, it’s
like, 20 minutes, half an hour has passed. So, we need to realize, as you said, there’s
definitely benefits, I mean the road-trip you were mentioning that it’s a great benefit
that people are able to save a lot of time and you’re able to travel that distance with ease.
So, those benefits, the pros and cons we need to weigh and especially the parents,
they need to be aware of both of those choices for themselves and especially
for their children as well. I feel like how our parents were left behind
with regards to technology and social media and all of this. And it seems like as if now
they are trying to make up for lost time. But I mean prior to this, they don’t know what
social media is, whereas all the youth are using Twitter, Instagram and all of these things –
and even WhatsApp and all these things. But a lot of the parents might not know
what’s capable with these social medias and what evil it can bring and what good
it can bring through all these things. So, I think it’s very important for parents
to be up-to-date with all of these things and know what youth are getting
themselves involved into. I don’t think, yeah, I actually think that parents
are also up to date – the way it’s going now. I see, you know, a lot of, by parents I mean, you know, a lot of our elder uncles and everyone. They’re all on social media and it starts, like you said, you start with one place and then God knows where you end up. And hours have gone by. So, a lot of time is wasted. But like you said, we need to understand
what are the capabilities of the social media. I’ll give you an example. You know, when
Instagram and all this stuff came out, I never really understood what it was and
I was using it more to just back up some interesting pictures or what I thought
was interesting – for myself. Didn’t even realize that the capacity of it is
supposed to connect you to all these other people. So, that’s a very dangerous thing.
And then when I thought about it, it’s actually one of the
most dangerous things, because that’s going to be on there forever.
So, maybe when you’re younger and you post something out of ignorance
but later on, in the future – and this has already started happening –
that it comes back to bite you, in a way, right? I mean at the same time, somebody might think
that, if there’s a young person just listening in, they might think that this is some sort of
religious sanction that we’re trying to make. But it doesn’t necessarily have to do with
religion that, trying to be careful about what you post, what kind of pictures you post, what
kind of things you tweet. I mean there are a lot of random thoughts. Even big political leaders
sometimes, we see, they’ll just be randomly typing away and then they’re held
accountable to that by society. And we’re just telling everybody to be
careful about what they post because, like Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba) has guided us,
that there are a lot of people who have been hurt by these things. And this is just a reality
that we have to accept, and we have to work around that and use all of these things to
maximize the beneficial use of those things. I think, there’s a flip side to this as well. You
shouldn’t only be looking at what you’re posting, but be careful of what you’re posting about
yourself. Another aspect about this whole social media realm is what are other people posting? How is that affecting you? You know, like recently on Instagram and other social media outlets, some of these memes that got really famous. It’s memes about exposing
people from other accounts. Where you’ll have a 16 years-old standing at Home Depot, and he’s taking a photo of himself and he’s posing as if this is his own house
that he bought at the age of 16 or 17, and he’s showing a false success. Right?
Now, initially when you look at this meme, it seems like, okay like you got caught,
you got booked, you’re exposed, right? You laugh at it. The question is:
how many people didn’t get caught? How many people didn’t get exposed?
Right? So, now you have an impressionable 14, 15, 16-year old person who’s looking at all
these things, looking at people’s “success” and now what they’re doing is, they’re reviewing
their own lives and they’re saying, ‘I’m a 16-year old, there’s another 16-year old,
this person is so successful’. Or you have people who are 25 years old,
30 years old and they’re looking at someone who is 20, 21, 22. What people don’t realize
is that there’s this huge movement, even within the social media and within the social
media realm where people are actually using these things to market themselves.
They’ll, for example, they’ll rent a mansion for a week and they’ll record multiple videos for
that entire week and they’ll post it throughout the span of a year to make it look like
they live there. They have rented cars. Right? It’s just taking on a false persona which is very
easy to do. I mean, there’s actually something called Facebook depression. That like,
psychologists when they’re diagnosing depression, they’ll ask do you use social media? Because it
does have an impact on you, because you begin, naturally, to compare your life to
somebody else. And as we all know, we’re always going to post some of our best
moments or some achievements or something on social media. And then other people
will compare their lives to it and then they’ll be like, ‘Oh you know,
what have we done?’ But I mean, even leaving social media aside, there’s other technological things
that facilitate our lives as well. What can we comment on some of those things? Because social media can help facilitate
a lot of things, and other technologies can help facilitate a lot of things, right? I think, as we were mentioning earlier
that definitely there’s pros and cons. So, for example, the pros are that through this
social media, or through certain messaging apps, let’s say if you’re collaborating on a certain
project, you are able to work together, you are able to achieve a lot more.
Similarly, for example, for us, from a religious point of view, propagating
the message of the Promised Messiah (as) and the Holy Prophet (saw), getting
that true picture of Islam out there. You know, for example, when Huzoor (aba) visits a
country and when he makes a speech in a parliament or some mosque opening – even the recent
US tour. So, the exposure is so big. So, definitely, there are the good sides to that
– that’s a good side of social media and the advancement of technology.
But at the same time, the reason we’re trying to emphasize on the evils or negative aspects
of it, because on a daily basis, on the average family, right now, if you look at all the research
that is coming in, it’s overwhelmingly showing that on a regular average family the impact
is negative because what is happening is that, for example, as soon as kids come home
from school, what do they want? They want to grab a device, a tablet, iPad,
or they want to sit down, watch TV. Right? When they want to do some sort of
homework, for example, back in the day, I remember when I was a child
growing up in Pakistan, in our school, we used to compete timetables.
We used to make two lines and it’s like start with one times one and then keep going
and we would go until up to 20, right? Nowadays, it’s impossible. You can’t even. Same
thing, for example, even if you look at telephone. Back in the days, you would have
so many phone numbers memorized. Now I mean, if anything, somebody would
just use an app to try and teach a kid his multiplication tables which is just
getting him more addicted to it. And then at the same time, it’s not letting
your brain develop because you’re relying so much on that. You know, there’s a joke that
a couple were sitting and they were watching TV. And the husband, he had put
his phone on charge in the kitchen. So then, a ring vibrated. So, he kind of
ignored it and then few seconds again, it vibrated again and still he ignored it.
And when it happened three or four times, finally the uncle, he went there. And when he
looked at the message, it was from his wife who was sitting beside him and she said,
‘Please bring some salt on your way back’. So, I mean, at the end of the day, you know,
that’s the light side of it but that’s what it’s boiling down to. Many-a-time,
we have people in the same household and there’s people sitting at the main floor
and people on the top floor and they’re calling each other instead of taking those
20 steps down or coming down. Some of us are probably guilty of that. This actually reminds me of something
that somebody tweeted out or something. It was on a social media where I saw
that like the power went out, right? So, the person wrote that the power went out
and I finally got to talk to my family members and they seem like really cool people.
Because this was the first time they were probably talking to them. But this is exactly what he
was saying that, that nobody’s communicating with each other. I think, one thing though,
we were speaking in previous episodes about communication, right? Sometimes, text
messaging and using these kinds of things, they could help in certain situations as well.
Like for example, we were speaking about, if youth are not able to communicate with
their parents. Sometimes they’re very shy. Sometimes, we’re very shy in vocalizing
something, looking somebody in the eye and saying something. So, we could text
our parents and say this is what I want to say but I can’t say it so I’m just writing it out,
right? So, in certain situations, this could be a good icebreaker to sort of open it up, but we
have to – that’s exactly what we have to, look at. Where can it be used to our benefit? Because
obviously, we don’t encourage communication between spouses just through text messaging
or something. Like we would want people, family members, to speak to each other, right?
But I guess that’s what we need to look at. There’s benefits, there’s harms, and we have
enough intellect to know what’s harmful and what’s beneficial. I mean, it’s not something
that somebody has to sit down and tell you. I mean most of it is self-evident. The health aspect of it, I think, that’s a
major thing. You know, just having a screen in your face at all times – the effect on
your eyes, even the sleeping patterns. This was confirmed in studies
that this is definitely having a negative effect on our sleeping. We need to keep our phones away from our beds. Right? And obesity. The kids are all sitting at home on the video games, on the PS4s and they’re just playing away. Where it used be that, you know,
mothers were calling the kids to come inside, now they’re begging them to leave the house. I think, another thing to add on to this as well is that, we have to realize that especially when you’re raising a child or just growing up yourself actually, you’re using all these different forms of social media, but we have to realize is there
is an entire world right outside the door. And like it or not, you will have to make
yourself into a functioning member of society. So, if you’re constantly inside on social media,
or you come home and you’re only on Instagram, you’re only on Twitter, I mean you’re watching
whatever you want to watch on TV and what not, you go to sleep, wake up, repeat. Rinse and
repeat, right? The question is, when you’re forced to go outside into the real world, you go
to apply for a job, you’re at an interview, you don’t know how to communicate, you haven’t
developed those essential communication skills. So, what actually ends up happening is that
you’re lacking now. You can’t express yourself. You’re sitting there and you have social anxiety. You’re sitting there, your hands
will be shaking sometimes, right? What you just described, and I am not sure
the confirmation – how true this study is, but the kids nowadays, they are having
speech impairment. They did the tests on them and they understand everything. You can
speak to them and they are understanding what you are saying, but they cannot express
themselves, because all they know is the screen. That give and take part of it isn’t there.
It’s just the giving part, right? And the crazy part is that, they’re saying
that a lot of these big companies behind this – or rich people who are controlling or developing
these apps – they themselves have applied very strict restrictions on their own children
as to the exposure time, each day, or at what age, and all of that, right?
So, while they are gaining a lot of wealth, and they are hoarding all of that wealth off of
the average family, the average member of the society, they understand the harms of it and
they’re keeping their own children away from this. For example, take alcohol. We as a society,
we understand all the harms, but still it’s legal because there is a lot of money to be made.
It’s the same thing with this. It is an addiction. A lot of us, it’s just that because to a certain
extent we are not ready to accept, we say ‘No, no, I’m in control’. But that only happens,
for example, if I remember a couple of months ago, I got my two daughters and my nephews and nieces
to my house – invited them on the weekend. So, I told them today from the morning until
night, there’s not going to be no devices – zero. No screen time at all. So, they are like ‘Okay,
so what are we going to do for the whole day?’ I was trying to explain to them, when I grew up
back in the days, we didn’t have – This is how we have fun. As a father,
I have to teach you this. But we would do one activity,
and after 20 minutes, they would be like, ‘Abba, now we’re bored’,
or ‘Mamoo, what do we do now?’ Right? I mean, eventually we got through
the day but it was very tough. I think what happens at the same time is
children mimic their parents, and all of us. Like if somebody took my phone away, I would be
devastated. I’m just going to go there and say it. Because we need it. We’re always using it
for one thing or another – work, leisure, whatever it may be. So, I think, us as elders,
parents as well, is that children will just mimic what they see. It’s not only just us giving them
devices, but even if we have it in our hands, the kids will say that, ‘we want it too’.
It’s actually proven, if you start reading books at home, the mother and father get together and
have a certain hour of the day where they just read books, this will translate over into the
habits of the children. These are the things we need to do. For example, table manners.
A lot of parents will take their kids out to a random restaurant and they’ll see that they’re
very rowdy. But they don’t understand that you have to practice at home. So, you
have to practice all of these things at home, so that the children can develop these
habits and then translate it later on. It’s interesting that Huzoor (aba), he’s
highlighted this point. And Huzoor (aba) has mentioned, that if you look at the life of
the Promised Messiah (as), that even though he was so busy, we still find incidents
where he was sitting down with his kids, and he was having a meal. And Huzoor (aba) has highlighted that again
and again, that parents, they need to have that friendship with their children. And as you just
mentioned that how many of us are at home, having not three, but at least one meal,
where the family is sitting down, no devices and everybody’s eating together? Even from the Holy Prophet’s (saw) time, we read
Ahadith in which companions used to sit together and just talk and narrate stories. Very rarely
does that happen – for us to come over here and start talking about this. It might happen
every now and then, but it’s not a habit, right? And we learn a lot from the Holy Prophet’s (saw)
time, that these are the things that we should be doing. It’s just part of
being human – speaking to other people – that we’re sort of beginning to miss out on. Socializing is a human phenomenon. This is
something that human beings have been doing since the creation of human beings – socializing,
right? What some people will say is that this is the latest and greatest advancement
of socializing. It might be the latest, but the question is, is it the greatest? Because
literally you are sitting at home and you have access to everything – not just something – you
have access to every single thing, and you are not a grown man, you’re not an adult, you’re a 12
year old you, have access to every single thing and that leads to all these other social ills as
well. I was reading a recent study that increased usage of social media actually leads people
towards drug abuse. The reason being is that there is so much propaganda out there. As an adult,
you need to make sure that if you have a younger sibling or children or what not,
you need to make sure that, what they’re looking at on their phones,
it’s controlled, it’s controlled content. But I think that’s the other problem with it.
I would say it’s near impossible to control that, because nowadays there are so many services
– you have VPN, you have what not. I would say it’s near impossible for any
parent to say that ‘Okay, the experience I’m going to give my child is going to
be contained, is going to be controlled’. The only way, in my opinion it can be
controlled, is if they do not have the device. The only way is to go somewhere without
electricity. That’s the only way. Only to a certain extent, right. That’s something very important that we
would probably discuss – a lot of people would be interested. I mean, this could be an entire
separate debate: at what age somebody should be allowed to use cell phones, or what not.
Personally speaking, I had a shared cell phone amongst my siblings when I was in grade ten,
and my older sister was in grade twelve. That’s the sort of age at which we were allowed
to have cell phones. Although, it was a flip phone at that time. It wasn’t a smartphone, on which
you can do everything nowadays. It was mainly just to text and make phone calls – to just
communicate, which is less of what we’re doing and more of taking in a lot of information. But, what
do you guys have to say with regards to that. I mean, like I said before, it could be debated,
whether or not teens should have cell phones. This is you trying to get us in trouble. Yeah, like it’s very sensitive.
Somebody who is watching would be like, ‘Manan Bhai doesn’t want us to have cell phones’. It’s interesting you mention this because
now again there is this new movement – if you want to call it that – they’re going
back to that. A lot of these successful people – and they’re business people – they’re going back
to the flip phone. Because of the distractions. The way they do it is, for example,
even if you YouTube, there are certain channels that show documentaries – and again we’re
saying use social media – the irony. They are showing the way they design the
graphics, the user interface, it’s made so that you become addicted. And it’s so appealing and
it’s so colourful – especially you’ll see that, for example, the colours blue, red and green.
And you’ll see a lot of these major, for example, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google –
they all have these very similar colours because these colours are so appealing to the eye. At the same time, when somebody
makes a website, there’s something called search engine optimization. And one of the
aspects of this is how do you keep somebody on your website for longer. People are doing
research with regards to this and they’re making algorithms, so you stay on a website longer.
That’s exactly what YouTube is doing. That’s exactly what Twitter, Instagram – all
these different social medias are doing. They’re trying to keep us hung. And then what
happens – like you were speaking about this earlier – that sleeping patterns. But now you’ll
see there are apps that try to help with that. So, the technology will be the culprit for that,
but then it’ll say, no, if you install this one app it’ll make it like a yellow haze and that will
help reset your sleeping pattern. So don’t worry, ‘it’s fine, you can use your
phone as much as you want’. It’s just a lot of band-aid solutions everywhere. But going back to your question, I think
Sobhi Sahib, perhaps, can give us the answer. The answer is to get out of electricity.
Because I was going to give the example, that after we finished Jamia,
Huzoor-e-Anwar (aba), he’s instructed the missionaries to go to certain other countries. So,
I had the chance of going to Ghana, for example. And I was in this village for about two
months, and no electricity in anything. And I noticed in those two months, everything
in my life, it was in a perfect routine. I woke up with the sun, I went to sleep with the
sun; because you don’t have anything else to do, really, and everything falls into place.
You wake up extra early for Tahajjud. That’s very interesting because I went
to Africa as well – I went to Benin. And even the most remotest villages I went to,
they had data and they had cellular there. So, I was able to connect to the Internet. Even
in those villages, where we would have to take a vehicle up to a certain point beyond which
a vehicle couldn’t go, then we would have to take the motorcycle of the local missionary, and then
to a place where even the motorcycle couldn’t go, so we had to walk through water to get
to that village, and the Internet was working. And I’m just like, “how does this work?”
But you’re right, at the same time I was happy. How would you charge your phone, though?
So, you had a limitation on it. Yeah, definitely. So, it goes
both ways. We just need to learn. And I guess it would be a more personal
thing, maybe parents could be, or the adults, or the guardians of the children could
be the ones who dictate at what age – because they know their children best, they
know what best to do with any type of situation, there’s no blanket age that we can set; before 16,
no technology whatsoever, it’s going to change. We all need to evaluate, what benefit has it
caused us, and what harm has it caused us in the past or other people? Because, I mean, life is too
short to just make all the mistakes by yourself. It’s just a matter of being, having that
intellect, or having that personal thing that, I know I am going to use it for good, and if
something happens, then I have learned my lesson. Or I am going to try my best to avoid the harms
that I know are associated with that. For youth nowadays, like I said before,
everything is self-evident. One thing we could all agree on, hopefully,
is that the parents have a responsibility, and the kids are watching them.
Like I have a niece, and any chance she gets – like we’re talking on the phone with her,
through Skype or whatever – I can tell she is looking at us, but now she’s fidgeting,
she’s doing other stuff at the same time. She’s only two, and she’s capable to do all that.
I couldn’t ever even imagine something like that. So, the kids are watching the parents. The parents
need to spend the time with their kids, spend the time, socialize with the kids, so that
at least they have some kind of a good backing, some moral training, some tarbiyyat towards
a positive direction. Otherwise we put it in their hands to get them to quiet, and I have
seen that happen. That’s just a band-aid – like you said – a band-aid solution for
everything. It’s going to be very detrimental. But I think the point you are mentioning, I think
to add to that, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IV (rh), he actually once mentioned, he said that it is
very difficult when kids are doing certain things to tell them, that don’t do this. Instead,
he says that you need to introduce activities, something new and then hope and work with them
so that activity will overtake the bad activity. So that is exactly what you’re saying, that
the parents and especially the older siblings who understand the harms of technology, they need
to understand, that these things – the harm is definitely greater. All the research that is
coming in with the social media and all of that. So, the family has to spend time together.
When you are at home, there should be limits. For example, let’s say,
at least have dinner together. Or if we are going to watch something on YouTube,
as Huzoor (aba) has been saying again and again, at least watch something from
MTA as well, because everything, all the content from MTA is on YouTube as well. So just to wrap it up, with regards to technology,
something that we forgot to mention, something that we must understand is that
technology was also created for the advancement of the message of the Promised Messiah (as).
So, if we always keep this thing in mind, keeping our end goal in mind, it will sort of
make our usage more applicable to that end goal. There’s a lot of great benefits, and some harms
to technology, it’s just a matter of evaluating and seeing where it’s going to serve us
and where it’s going to go against us. Some great points were made today.
JazakAllah for joining us. May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon you.