Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and whatever’s the latest and hottest in social networking… they’re all super popular, with millions of users all around the world. Most people reading this post probably has an account with one or more of these websites (including myself). Though not unique to any certain age group, it’s indisputable that these sites are most popular with the youth – midteens and up… and that’s where we should be most concerned.
Let’s backtrack a little, though. First of all, what are these sites and what do people do on them? Most of them, like Facebook, are considered to be sources of “social networking.” That is to say, you sign up and you’re almost immediately flooded with requests from people who want to be your “friends.” Some of these people you may know. Some you may not. You have the choice to accept and decline requests as you see fit. Aside from this – or actually, a part of it – is that you can upload pictures (many people put up pictures of themselves), let people know what you’re thinking and doing (sort of like a blog), and basically interact with other people online.
In and of themselves, they’re not all that bad. What people do on them, however, is something else entirely. They can be, and are, used as sources of benefit: being able to keep in touch with distant friends and family, meeting like-minded people who can help you with projects and petitions, and more. There is, however, a much shadier side to it all.
Too many people give their personal information (tip #1: use a pseudonym and don’t give out sensitive info like your school, location, phone number, etc.); put up pictures of themselves without hijaab, inappropriate clothing, compromising positions; and behave online as they would not behave in public. Not only that, but there are always creeps and pervs just waiting to pounce! Furthermore, these sites are under no obligation to keep your information private. In fact, they do exactly the opposite – give other companies access to your information to use for their own nefarious money-making purposes.
I’m not being paranoid, either. The fitnah and the dangers are very real. Here are some examples of what’s happening:
- Facebook Blabs on Shoppers
- Privacy Watchdog Warns of Facebook Dangers
- MySpace vs. Facebook: Which One is Creepier?
As Muslims, we have etiquettes to follow no matter where we are or what we’re doing… whether it’s in “real life” or the “cyber dunya.” Such etiquettes include hayaa and taking care of how we interact with the opposite gender… basically, the way we must behave in real life is how we should behave online. This is something that all of us adults (or almost-adults! ) need to keep in mind.
What I’m most concerned about is what Muslim youth are doing online. There are a lot of Muslim kids on Facebook and MySpace who are “friends” with random strangers, who are sharing personal information and chatting about intensely private things with them. Most of these kids’ parents don’t know that they’re registered with the site, what they’re doing on there, and who they’re chatting with. So parents: if your kid has access to a computer, whether at home or at school, and is Internet-savvy (which kid isn’t, nowadays?), then PLEASE make sure you know what your kids are doing online!
Here’s some advice to Muslim parents:
In addition to warning your kids about the dangers of the cyber-dunya (I’m starting to really love this term!), you need to explain the importance of Islamic etiquette online. Whether we’re playing games, chatting to your friends, or interacting with total strangers, we need to be extremely careful and watchful. Those with access to digital cameras need to be careful with what pictures they’re taking and posting online. An explanation and gentle warning usually does the job; unfortunately, some people will only learn the hard way… which can be very scary.In short, please be careful! I say this first to myself, because so much of my life (sadly) revolves around the Internet and I’ve probably made a few mistakes myself; and then to the rest of you, especially if you have kids, because I’ve seen what some of the younger kids who have access to the Internet do.
I especially urge you all to try to raise awareness of this subject at your Islamic centres and masaajid, because even though the Internet is so widely used, it is something rarely addressed by community leaders. Sadly, I’ve heard of way too many horrible things happening to people because of what they’ve done on the ‘Net, and I sincerely wish us all to be spared that kind of trouble.
May Allah protect us all from the fitnah of this world, online and off, ameen!
Disclaimer: Sadly, I’m not the one clever enough to come up with the post title.
Many thanks to MuslimMatters for this great post :)
If this article achieves anything then all praise is all due to Allah, only the mistakes are mine :)