Facebook: The Hidden Danger


Islam and the Internet Series: IntroPart I | Part IIPart IIIPart IV | Part V | Part VIPart VII | Part VIII | Part IV

We live in an iWorld. Surrounded by iPhones, iPads, MYspace, YOUtube, the focus is clear: Me, my, I. One need not look far to see this obsession with the self. In order to sell, advertisers must appeal to the ego. For example, many ads appeal to the part of us that loves power and being in charge. DirectTV tells you: “Don’t watch TV, direct TV!” Yogurtland says: “You rule! Welcome to the land of endless yogurt possibilities, where you rule the portions, the choices and the scene.”

But advertisers aren’t the only ones who appeal to our ego. There is a global phenomenon that provides a breeding ground and platform for that ego. And it’s called Facebook. Now, I’ll be the first to assert that Facebook can be a powerful tool for good. It is, like many other things, what you make of it. A knife can be used to cut food which feeds the hungry, or it can be used to kill someone. Facebook can be used for great good—after all it was Facebook that helped facilitate the toppling of a dictator. Facebook can be used as a powerful tool to organize, call, remind, and unite. Facebook can also be used to strengthen our connection to God and to each other… Or Facebook can be used to strengthen the hold of our nafs (lower self or ego).

The Facebook phenomenon is an interesting one. In each and every one of us is an ego. It is the part of ourselves that must be suppressed (if we are to avoid Anakin’s fate of turning to the dark side, that is). The danger of feeding the ego is that, as the ego is fed, it becomes strong. When it becomes strong, it begins to rule us. Soon we are no longer slaves to God; we become slaves to ourselves.

The ego is the part of us that loves power. It is the part that loves to be seen, recognized, praised, and adored. Facebook provides a powerful platform for this. It provides a platform by which every word, picture, or thought I have can be seen, praised, ‘liked’. As a result, I begin to seek this. But then it doesn’t just stay in the cyber world. I begin even to live my life with this visibility in mind. Suddenly, I live every experience, every photo, every thought, as if it’s being watched, because in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I’ll put it on Facebook.” This creates a very interesting state of being, almost a constant sense that I am living my life on display. I become ever conscious of being watched, because everything can be put up on Facebook for others to see and comment on.

More importantly, it creates a false sense of self-importance, where every insignificant move I make is of international importance. Soon I become the focus, the one on display. The message is: I am so important. My life is so important. Every move I make is so important. The result becomes an even stronger me-focused world, where I am at the center.

As it turns out, this result is diametrically opposed to the Reality of existence. The goal of this life is to realize the Truth of God’s greatness and my own insignificance and need before Him. The goal is to take myself out of the center and put Him there instead. But Facebook perpetuates the illusion of the exact opposite. It strengthens my belief that because of my own importance, every inconsequential move or thought should be on display. Suddenly what I ate for breakfast or bought at the grocery store is news important enough to publish. When I put up a picture, I wait for compliments; I wait for acknowledgement and recognition. With the number of likes or comments, physical beauty becomes something that can now be quantified. When I put up a post, I wait for it to be ‘liked’. And I am ever conscience of—and even compete in—the number of “friends” I have. (Friends, here, is in quotation marks because no one knows 80% of their “friends” on Facebook.)

This preoccupation and rivalry to acquire more, is mentioned in the Quran. God says:

102:1

“The mutual rivalry for piling up (of worldly things) has preoccupied you.”(102:1)

Whether that rivalry is in piling up wealth, or friends and ‘likes’ on Facebook, the result is the same: We have become preoccupied by it.

Facebook also strengthens another dangerous focus: the focus on other people, what they’re doing, what they like. What they think of me. Facebook feeds the preoccupation with others’ assessment of me. Soon, I enter the orbit of the creation. Inside that orbit, my definitions, my pain, my happiness, my self-worth, my success and my failure is determined by the creation. When I live in that orbit, I rise and fall with the creation. When the people are happy with me, I’m up. When they’re not, I fall. Where I stand is defined by people. I’m like a prisoner because I have given up the keys to my happiness, sadness, fulfillment, and disappointment to the people to hold.

Once I enter and live in the orbit of the creation—rather than the orbit of God—I begin to use that currency. See, the currency of God’s orbit is: His pleasure or His displeasure, His reward or His punishment. But, the currency of the orbit of creation is: the praise and criticism of people. So, as I enter deeper and deeper into that orbit, I covet more and more of its currency, and I fear more and more of its loss. While I’m playing Monopoly, for example, I covet more and more of its currency. And it feels great to be ‘rich’ for a moment. But when the game is over, what can I buy in the Real world with Monopoly money?

The human currency of praise is Monopoly money. It feels great for a moment to collect, but when the game is over, it’s worthless. In the Reality of this life and the next, it’s worthless. And yet, I even covet this false currency in my worship. In this way, I fall victim to the hidden shirk: Riyaa (showing off in worship). Riyaa is a consequence of living in the orbit of the creation. The deeper and deeper I enter into that orbit, the more I become consumed with gaining human praise, approval and recognition. The more I enter that orbit, the more I fear loss—loss of face, loss of status, loss of praise, loss of approval.

But the more I fear the people, the more I become enslaved.  True freedom only comes when I let go of the fear of anything and anyone other than God.

In a profound hadith (Prophetic teaching), a man came to the Prophet ﷺ and said: “O Messenger of God, direct me to an act, which if I do, God will love me and people will love me.” He ﷺ said: “Detach yourself from the world, and God will love you. Detach yourself from what is with the people, and the people will love you.”  [Ibn Majah]

Ironically, the less we chase after the approval and love of the people, the more we gain it. The less needy we are of others, the more people are drawn to us and seek our company. This hadith teaches us a profound Truth. Only by breaking out of the orbit of the creation, can we succeed with both God and people.

So while Facebook is indeed a powerful tool, let it be a tool of your freedom—not a tool of your servitude to yourself and the assessment of others.

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53 Comments

  1. This kind of ‘accumulation’ is probably one of the most dangerous kinds, as it is so easy (it only takes a click!) and immediately gratifying.

    JazakAllah khair, this post serves as a powerful warning which applies to almost all facebook users.

    • brooke says:

      immediately, but temporarily gratifying… that should be pointed out. because it may feel good for a second, but soon you’re hungry again.

  2. umm yusuf says:

    Alhamdulillahi rabbil a’alameen!

    I LOVE it! Jazaki’Allahu khayran

    This has to be one of those for keeps- a constant reminder for oneself and one’s ego.

    Barak’Allahu feek!

  3. reem says:

    subhanAllah. I can’t get over this article. great insights and reminders! including the point about “currency” of the orbit of God versus creation

  4. Muhammad Yousuf Tafhim says:

    Assalam O Alaikum,
    Great article!
    ‘Living in the orbit of the creation’ is very common among not only with social media but with friends and colleagues as well. May Allah give us the strength to stay away from it

  5. anonymous says:

    very interesting article. great reminder and great writing, mA

  6. Abeer says:

    What a profound assessment of Facebook! This really made me think and hopefully inshaAllah will awake me to the realities of the consequences of my actions. The hadith in the end was beautiful as well! JazakaAllah khair!

  7. Alia says:

    Wow this is amazing!
    I was looking for something like this.
    Jazak Allah kheir sister Yasmin, I always look forward to the articles you write!
    :)
    sister Alia

  8. Anonymous says:

    If only the ego had an extra letter (G) in the word so it can be easily consumed with maple syrup…

    Just lightening the mood.

    Jazakum Allahu khair for the article. Much appreciated.

    fi aman Allah

  9. Narges says:

    Jazakallah Kheir Yasmin for another amazing article. We don’t see One eye above all other eyes: The only One that really matters. May Allah allow us to use technology as a tool to get closer to Him.

  10. Mohamed says:

    I gave this article a “like”, although I hope you’re not really looking for it :)

  11. Mustapha says:

    Jazzakallahu Khair.
    Indeed its so true, people do live and breathe-constantly- on the thoughts(consequences) or their actions(posts,comments,photos…) on Facebook.
    Subhannallah, may Allah guide and protect our affairs.
    Ameen.

  12. Josephine says:

    SubhanAllah… Al hamdulilAllah… Allahu Akbar… Great article indeed! May Allah (swt) lead us to do righteousness in our life and show us the right path up to the end of our lives and reach the goal of success insha’Allah. JazakiAllahu khayran.

  13. samk says:

    a very informative article ,jazakhallah

  14. Sumaya Um Sara says:

    SobhanAllah…

    I truly think this is the best article I have ever read. It spoke right to me.

    Allah yahdeeh kol al-muslimeen.

  15. fida says:

    jazkai Allah khyrn for this article, truly it is enlightenment!!

    That is true Sub7ana Allah, that is how life is starting to be, and that is why you find alot of us under frustration!

    Its not just facebook, its in everything we do!
    even in work, (at a job or at home) we always look for wat people think
    if they give us a thumbs up, its like thy gave us a boost of energy to work more!

    but sub7ana Allah why is it like that? why isnt our Love ot Allah and to make him blessed with us enough to give us a boost?

    oh Mya Allah 4give us and guide us to the right path and becoem strong for Him!!

  16. mehmudah says:

    Agree with every word… wish this piece could be conveyed to so many Muslims who’ve lost their way with too much facebook

  17. Wael Hamza says:

    I would love to click “Like” to your post, should I? Well, since i really like it, I will hit it anyway.

    Very true and very dangerous especially for people who already have this tendency, wa la hawla wa la qowata Illa be Allah!!!

  18. Rizwan Tai says:

    Excellent article, loved it!!!

  19. Sakeena says:

    While in a Facebook-driven mode, people think of the world watching them, forgetting that really only Allah swt is watching all they do. And His eyes are the only one that matter.

    This article is really repetitive, but I liked its points.

  20. angela says:

    Thank you for this article. It is all true. I’m happy that others see this issue as well. I’ll be passing it on.

  21. Zayd Yahya says:

    Mashallah.
    My facebook account was hacked over two years ago after I returned from living abroad and I was never able to access it again. I considered creating a new account but decided not to — I keep in touch with the people I care about who live far from me by picking up the phone or emailing. What started as a frustrating and stressful experience has turned out to be a great blessing for me, alhamdulillah. My real friends are still my friends, and that will never change.

  22. Veronica says:

    Subhannallah, thank you sister for pointing out how we use instruments such as Facebook to aid our ego. Honestly, I would have never thought of this as being a serious issue within myself. Yet, the more I read the more I found myself being guilty of this type of behavior. May Allah bless you sister for your reminder and may Allah increase you in knowledge.

    Salam alaikum

  23. Zaid Akhtar says:

    Assalamu Aleikum,

    This is such an excellent article. Truly Facebook increases our our ego so much so that we may go to an extent of creating an “alter ego”. In other words we loose our own identity of who we truly are and create a fictional character of who we could not have become thereby engrossed in an imaginative world filled with worldly desires. Under severe circumstances, this may even lead to a psychological disease known as Schizophrenia or Multiple Personality Disorder. Facebook is a not a necessity but a menace to society aiming at Fitna and Haraam on a large scale. But why am I not surprised? The only solution is to either leave Facebook permanently or engage in only Dawah on Facebook and nothing else. Jazak’Allah Khair.

    Zaid

    [Editor's note: deleted racial remark.]

  24. asma says:

    jazakALLAH khair for the great eye opener article..i request every one who has read this article should spread it…

  25. Amany K. says:

    JAK Sister Yasmeen for the great article. It coincides with a research paper that I’m currently working on, focusing on the psychological and social effects that are excessive use of Facebook may bring.

  26. Ahmad Adejumo says:

    A beutiful reminder for any muslim who prefers Allaah’s rewards to mere praise of men. Jazaakillahu khayraa!

  27. Tasleem Javed says:

    The article mashallah,is of great interest. Just needs more of todays generation to realise this.

  28. Hussein says:

    Wonderful Article. Shukran for sharing. I hope it’s ok if i copy & send it to my mailing list so long as i put the link to the article at the end of the mail.

  29. Anonymous says:

    A good reminder to all of us.

    I just wanna say though that I read the article and the saw that “136 people liiked this”. Haha just thought it was funny to have read it all and then see the “like” feature at the end. It’s literally everywhere.

  30. bilal197 says:

    i have been using facebook for so long and the kind of disease it had created in my heart was just unacceptable near allah. As the writer mentions how it creates the feeling of iness, i still writing this have somewhere feeling that how many people will appreciate this reply. Its really a matter of concern for me. May Allah help me overcome this.

  31. amatullah says:

    Ironically it was facebook that led me to this article:) Algamdoelilah! At least we can use this tool4good

  32. Very profound. Jazakillah!

  33. Musabbir says:

    Beautiful article. simply awesome. :)

  34. anon says:

    Interesting article although i beg to differ your point about not knowing 80% of friends on facebook. I make sure that i know every single one of my friends and dont add anyone i dont! So maybe your claim that no-one knows their friends may need to be re-evaluated

  35. fatima says:

    maashaa`alaah, ya sheikh than you so much for this amazing lecture, it helped me my situation, shukran jaziilan again. may allah reward you, amin.

  36. Littlesister says:

    This is a good quote for Quran (places in article): “The mutual rivalry for piling up (of worldly things) has preoccupied you.”(102:1) It’s true.

    I enjoy this website, its articles and the fact that you shared it. But something just bugs me. I think it’s because I’m so tired of hearing the same speech, where the article starts “we live in a world full of _____.” It’s kind of like getting tired attending to certain events because you’ve been heard the same thing, over and over again. What needs to be addressed also, though is that are other social networking websites, these things are more of a distraction and there is a matter of privacy issues (even though we may think Facebook secures our information) Personally, I think most social networking websites are of course, about you, yourself and I, otherwise why would anyone make one, right? Lol! But remember that facebook owns your page, you don’t.

    I’m not trying to start an argument, astugfirAllah, but like anything else, of course you’d want to control what you eat, drink, participate in, so I never see why commercials can’t say “you” this or “you” that or how that makes our ego go higher. I’d want to have the choice…Freedom is about what YOU want to do, if you didn’t have it, then everything we read that includes “YOU” would turn into something else, like “HIM” or some other celebrity.

  37. Abu Omar says:

    Thx for the info. May Allah save us. Ameen.

  38. Amani says:

    Thank you for this very interesting article. It’s pretty much because of this reason that I stopped using Facebook, the constant thought in my head that I need to share this, this and this to everyone that for me, this situation just feel so wrong. This article really help to clarify the matter.

  39. Nafiul Azim says:

    mashaAllah…such beautfully xplained

  40. Raza says:

    Mashallah, explained beautifully!

  41. Marghoob says:

    so why are you using the facebook, youtube and twitter if they so bad?

    • yasmin mogahed says:

      Dear Marghoob,

      From the article:

      “Now, I’ll be the first to assert that Facebook can be a powerful tool for good. It is, like many other things, what you make of it. A knife can be used to cut food which feeds the hungry, or it can be used to kill someone. Facebook can be used for great good—after all it was Facebook that helped facilitate the toppling of a dictator. Facebook can be used as a powerful tool to organize, call, remind, and unite. Facebook can also be used to strengthen our connection to God and to each other… Or Facebook can be used to strengthen the hold of our nafs (lower self or ego).”

  42. Syed J says:

    Assalam alaikum

    My first email account was opened with Yahoo! in 1998 i.e. 13 years back, and i still have it Alhamdulillah.

    Since the inception of Facebook, i’ve not felt it comfortable for some reason, so i’ve never used it.

    I’m an American, i’m a Muslim, and i’m still connected with my friends (through email). I’m not sure why i would really need a FB account.

    That said, if one feels he/she is v strong with his/her ‘nafs control’ then i guess he can use FB for good, but i’d say keep away from it if you fear you’re weak (which in most cases, i think we are).

    Wallahu a’lam.

    Jazak Allah Khair

  43. Marghoob says:

    Alhumdo Lilillah ! not one but three of them………

    3 types of nafs.

    1. Nafse Ammara- When you have given yourself to your desires. You are happy in this state because you do not even feel bad about your sins. Your happiness is out of ignorance. You may miss your fariadh and wajabat and still you sleep contently at night without feeling sorrow.

    2. Nafse Lawama- This is when you are aware of your sins. You know about the sins you commit and are regretful about them. You are unhappy and sorrowful in this state.

    3. Nafse-Mutmainna- This nafse has given itself to the commands of Allah(SWT). He described it as real genuine bliss. You are content in this state.

    Then he told us a 3 step process from one to the other.

    1. Be staunch on the faraidh and wajabat.

    2. Staunch on the sunnah, increase zikr, and nafl ibadah.

    3. Allah (SWT) brings us to Him, because we made ourselves a certain way that we attracted the love and mercy of Allah(SWT ).

    http://www.quranexplorer.com/quran/?Sura=12&FromVerse=53&ToVerse=53&Script=Usmani&Reciter=Mishari-Rashid&Translation=Urdu-Ahmed%20Ali&TajweedRules=Off&Zoom=5

  44. a muslim says:

    Some of the premises you make your argument on are faulty. For instance:

    “More importantly, it creates a false sense of self-importance, where every insignificant move I make is of international importance. Soon I become the focus, the one on display. The message is: I am so important. My life is so important. Every move I make is so important. The result becomes an even stronger me-focused world, where I am at the cente”

    That’s only if you’re presumptuous and self centered enough to assume that people are interested in hearing about what you had for breakfast and how you helped your son with his math homework that day. If you are smart enough to realize that that kind of status update looks pathetic, you will use your status space to share funny or interesting things.
    That is to say, if you have a life, yours won’t become about Facebook.

    There are plenty of ways that having a FB account can be dangerous to your iman, but I draw the line at Facebook being an inherent challenge to God’s power. Like, I can understand how FB could be a distraction from worship, but I can’t see this ego thing youre talking about.

    We have just as much of this ‘ego’ in real life with our relationships with other people, that’s sure as heck not going to stop ppl from being social, it just means theyll need to keep it in check.

  45. 89 says:

    Facebook made me paranoid and insecure despite I kept most things private.But the way some people can use it to make trouble it can be hurtful ,whether strangers adding your friends and you jump to conclusions it’s really bad for the heart and head.Or your real friends you know in real life picking on you in such a public forum.Feels better without all that!relief!

  46. riddah says:

    jazakALLAH sister yet again i cry as i read ur article..u are sooo right.i literally becames enslaved to facebook.with every pic i used to take anywhere in the whole world i would just take it with the intention of whether its going to look good on my profile or not..AND I BECAME A SLAVE OF PEOPLE’S LIKES ND COMMENTS.craving nd craving more of it..nd then theres another thing u didnt mention.u start competing with others for the number of likes.for example if u have a friend on facebook who is infact not a friend rather just on ur list nd theres some sort of animosity or biterrness between u two THENN if she has more number of likes on her picture she wins and u LOSEEEE!!nd u cry nd u become FRUSTRATED..IM SERIOUS.thATS WHAT FB DID TO ME!feeling sooo free now..made all my pix visible to only few close frnds who wer girls nd true frnds who i dnt want to compete with..just left a few profile pix visible to all frnds(includes guys) cuz all at once would be too much for me to bear..slowly nd gradually ill let it out of me.NO more slave it will i be inshaALLAH..need prayers.
    btw what shaytaan did with me was it kept telling me that u learn almost 10 ahaith everyday frm Fb how canit be bad for you..more than 10 cuz i have liked sooooo many islamic pages nd keep reading articles.thats the reasoning i would give to myself when any of my elders would telme to stay away from fb nd lookk how it has almost destroyed my entire being..i cant think outside facebook..
    my sentences in real life start with THE AWKWARD MOMENT WHEN…..
    and Riddah likes…..
    in my daily lives..and whatever i do all i have in my mind is ohh ill put that on fb nd everyone will think im sooo cool!!!may i say its out of sheer inferiority complex!!which no one addicted to facebook will ACCEPT until one fine day well not so fine actually,,they realise they cant breathe if ppl ddnt like their status or if someone didnot comment on their post they ARE ANGRY LIKE hell and whhhatt an embarrassment it is when u put a post and there are only a few likes and someone else puts a post and everyone likes it..
    i have actually developed animosity for people if they joked about me on some wall or something.became like a matter of life nd death.ND YES ALSO THINKING of SEVERING ALL TIES WITH THAT PeRSON IN REAL LIFE..when a friend told me chill its not such a big deal.but thats how facebook is about EGO.
    very beautifully written for all those suffering from this disease.GOD heal us soon.ameen.i am searching for ALLAHs help me so HE can cure my addiction!..my falsely created ego..nd OMG im so coool i have so many likes or omg im a loser nd shes not cuz she has so many likes and i dont have so many likes nd comments.ameen sumameen…nd stalking nd all thats not allowed in islam especially stalking ur crushes especiallly everytime nd everyone you know its not allowed at all but we dont realise how wrong it is FOR US until we become total slaves to it.nd yeahhh hating someone cuz they r online nd they didnt ‘like’ ur photo that you just posted and then taking revenge by not liking their photo..
    AND BTW in real life i am nottt at all like that vindictive and revengeful or ego or anything but i recently realised how i have changed how the number of likes on my PRO PRO pics have boosted my self confidence..yuckkkk!!.i hatttee it noww.I AM NOO MORE THE SIMPLE GIRL I USED TO BE nd if i dont leave fb now my entire personality is going to change upside down..i useddd to hattte it when people complimented me or used to become shy now i love it and i SEEK compliments from everyone even in real life whenever i get dressed(I MEAN PROPERLY DRESSED,I DO COVER BTW) and go anywhr i have a feeling oh im looking soo beautiful.i was nver like that!!just covering is not the end of story! facebook ruined me completely,my ego,my simple plain quiet nature!
    For anyone who reads this please pray for me nd CONDEMN my actions nd dont say its okay as they do on fb ‘LIKE’ even the worst of thngs and make u feel GOOD for no reason!!their is no dislike or hate button on fb so no ones ego gets much hurt publicly.u either remain as u are orr u get really popular by the number of likes:S..im really depressed.im seeking ALLAHS guidance but wrote all that was in my heart to vent it out nd this time i DID NOT WANT THE outlet to be FACEBOOK ALHAMDOLILLAH!THE ultimate SATAN in my life!nd pardon the grammatical errors was so emotional that wrote everything that came to mind.
    JAZAK ALLAH again!

  47. Frank M says:

    Facebook is a linguistic potato famine. I don’t hate it, it just makes me feel uncomfortable – I worry about what words mean. Language is becoming permanently rhetorical, bleached of meaning or intent. It’s just a sea of hollow sentiments, guys in goatees and ineffectual people feigning charisma and intellect.
    I have faith in humanity, though. better strains of language will take root in reality, and this will collapse in on itself and become another fad.

  48. salsabil says:

    Thank you so much dear brother, after reading this it reassured my path & helped me because I also experienced some of those Facebook symptoms.I think what your doing is great,may Allah be pleased with you( peace to you.)

  49. Rabiya says:

    I love this! I saved it 2 years ago when it was first published and sA it still is a great reminder!

  50. a muslimah (Rwp) says:

    Awsummm.. dear sister Yasmin! I love everything u write and this article has made me deactivate my FB account permanently, forever n ever… May Allah Ji give u Ajar e Azeem 4that… JazakAllah :)

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