maandag 23 juni 2014

Ramadan Reflections: Social media fasting

With Ramadan fast approaching I'm preparing for what has become an annual tradition of mine during Ramadan: social media fasting. :-) 

Although social media has been a life saver for me while living abroad, I love the way it keeps me up to date on what happens *back home* and it makes me feel like my family and beloved sisters and friends are right next door instead of thousands of miles away, it's a fact that social media does suck up (too) much of my time. 

I guess it's become kind of an addiction for most of us, as I know few people who can still live without a smartphone and don't even go to the bathroom without it. The majority of us is connected 24/7 and posting pictures of your supper every night hasn't become *obsessed*, it's being liked and shared all over the globe. Our lives today are partly being lived online. Although I accept this as being a reality today as also my life is partly being lived on the social media platforms, I do think it sometimes goes too far. Sometimes we just forget to live in the real world, as the online world appeals to us as more exciting (While it actually isn't...): instead of enjoying a coffee break with a friend and really listening to what she has to say, we're texting through WhatsApp to a friend on another continent and we'll be posting a picture of our latte on Instagram. It seems like social media hasn't only made us more lonely and less social, but it's also become a major distraction. 

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, ... They're *weapons of mass distraction*. We can hardly just *be in the moment* as we're always texting, messaging or uploading pics at the same time. We can't really focus or concentrate on one thing anymore as our smartphone is constantly buzzing and distracting us from just *being*. Especially during Ramadan this is something I want to avoid. In Ramadan I just want to *be* in the moment. I want to enjoy and really be able to focus when I'm reading Qur'an or praying taraweeh at the mosque without my phone buzzing every 5 minutes. I want to be able to enjoy my suhur in silence instead of feeling the need to post what I just ate on Instagram as that seems to be the new trend nowadays. I want to be able to reconnect with my Lord much more, but in order to do that I need to keep anything that distracts me at bay. And for me social media is a big distraction.

As Ramadan is exactly about that: leaving things that are actually halaal but for the sake of Allah we leave them during Ramadan in order to get closer to Him. It wouldn't make sense to me to refrain from eating, drinking, intimacy, while I keep on *indulging* in other worldly pleasures. That's why during Ramadan the TV is shut off and during fasting hours I go *offline*. Last year I really reaped the fruits of my social media fasting as it was surprising how much more time I had left to perform deeds of worship and how much more focused I was. And so I decided to continue that *tradition* this year as well. :-)

I can only recommend it to you as well: you will have more time which will make you perform more good deeds, you will be more focused and you'll have a deeper sense of calm during the whole month as your connection with Allah doesn't get disturbed as much.

Here are some of my tips to get going: 
* The first days of fasting in general always feel a bit like detox: your body needs to get used to the rhythm of fasting and you might experience lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, ... The same goes for social media fasting: the first few days you'll have to suppress the urge to grab your phone and check your Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook, ... But after some days you'll get used to this new rythm and believe me: you won't even miss it at the end of the month. :-)
* Stick to the fasting hours: this means I don't use social media from Fajr til Maghreb. Afterwards I do check Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp, ... But as it's time for iftar, and afterwards the taraweeh prayers, there's not a whole lot of time to get lazy and spend too much time on it. 
* Restrict your use of social media to checking your accounts only once a day and set a specific time to do so. (F.ex.: After iftar and before taraweeh prayers.)
* Completely switch off your phone when you're going for taraweeh-prayers or even leave it at home all together, so you don't feel the urge to check it or get distracted by any notifications. 
* When you're at home: store away your phone/laptop and hide them somewhere out of your view. Out of sight in this case does mean out of mind. ;-) 
* Make a little announcement before Ramadan starts that you'll be off social media most of the time during Ramadan and ask people if they need to contact you, they do so through e-mail or by calling or texting directly to your phone (or that you'll be able to reply to them after iftar).

In shaa Allah, I hope this can motivate and inspire others to be a little more disconnected in Ramadan so it may help others as well to focus more on our connection with Allah. :-)

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