S01E40 – The Fiqh of Social Media w/ Omar Usman

Muslim Life Hackers


Channel: Muslim Life Hackers


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Episode Notes

Maheen interviews Br Omar Usman on the fiqh of social media, a faith based guide to navigating the social media lifestyle. In this interview, you will hear about the things that are not so commonly spoken about on social media – Including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters,Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations.

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Episode 40 I remember being at a program at the mustard and the mom was talking about it. And parents were sending up questions like is Facebook Hello? Is Facebook calm? Should we even be on it? Welcome to the Muslim law Packers podcast, the weekly podcast providing you with tips and tricks on how to hack your life and maximize its potential. And now for your hosts Mira maroof and maheen Malik.

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As we said, the crisis see

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Assalamu alaikum Muslim life hackers, this is me for America with Episode 40 from the Muslim life hackers podcast in this podcast unfortunately, you won't be hearing me for long because we have a special guest. Joining us on the show today. He is a founding member of Muslim marriage.org Calum Institute, d'esprit Muslims and the thick of social media. If you've actually read about an article on Muslim matters, which was called the shame grenades, then it was written by our guest today, along with many other pieces on social media. In case you haven't guessed by now, our guest today is brother Omar Osman. And in this podcast maheen will be interviewing him on the field of social

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media, which is a faith based guide to navigating the social media lifestyle. Now, don't let that title put you off, it's not going to be boring. I myself really enjoyed it. In this interview, you hear about the things that are not so commonly spoken about when it comes to social media, including the good, the bad, the ugly. And of course, in this podcast, you'll find some practical tips on how to best approach social media. All the links and resources that we mentioned throughout this episode, you can find them at our website over at Muslim life hackers.com slash 40. Okay, so without further ado, I will hand it over to maheen

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Sonic awesome life hackers. Welcome to today's show. And today I've got a really special surprise for you all, got a guest interview with brother Omar Smith. And you might know him for projects such as Muslim matters, Calum Institute debt free Muslims and the field of social media. As I call my mom, how are you? Welcome, Sam. I'm doing good. How are you? Pretty good. Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for taking time out to join us. Upon thanks for having me on. I listened to your podcast. So this is an honor to be on there. That's really flattering, like, whenever, like people tell us that they listen to the podcast. And it's like, What? Why would you do that. But um, thank

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you so much for that. Now you're involved in so many projects, there's some kind of secret sauce to being so awesome.

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I wouldn't call it that.

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Just able to just kind of be in the right place at the right time for a lot of these. And it's just more being very economical and efficient with what my contribution is on those projects, in order to just kind of manage the time. Awesome. So um, what I really want to talk about today, and I would I think our listeners would really benefit from is we talked about your projects, involving like the fear of social media, could you give us like a bit of background on on the fear of social media and maybe the reasoning behind it? Sure. So I've been active on social media for quite a long time. And even online, I've probably been, I think I made my first website like Middle School.

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I've maintained some type of website, probably since college. So we're talking a little over 10 years ago.

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And it's just always been fascinating to me how powerful the tool is, especially in terms of almost anyone being able to be on there and contribute something and people are able to benefit from it and things of that sort. Even just this interview itself. You know, without the advent of the internet and social media, we would have no idea that the other person even existed or what they were working on or what their contributions were. So it's very fascinating that this type of world almost as opened up, that otherwise was kind of closed off. And naturally with that come a lot of consequences. While there's a lot of good that can be done with the way that has changed everything.

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There's a lot of things that we need to kind of be cognizant of as well. And that's a little bit what pick up social media. That's what I'm hoping that it will accomplish is navigating some of like the etiquettes a little bit of understanding what's going on how Islamic principles apply to this new space. And just kind of give people a little bit of a guide on how to navigate this new platform. Basically.

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I feel a lot of times the Muslim community is behind technologically. So you know, for example, when people started using CDs, Muslim companies were still producing audio cassettes.

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Take one step behind when iTunes came out and everyone started shifting to mp3. We shifted from audio cassettes to CDs, and we see the same thing with social media. I would say a few years ago

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go learn, maybe not even a few years ago, maybe a couple of years ago, I remember being at a program at the mustard and the mom was talking about it. And parents were sending up questions like, is Facebook Hello? Is Facebook calm? Should we even be on it? And now that question has shifted to how do we actually utilize it? And the problem is, we shouldn't be two years behind the curve, we should kind of be ahead of it, and dictating how we should be utilizing it.

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Fantastic. So yeah, it is kind of like an another world. And we need to know the principles and etiquettes out there otherwise.

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Otherwise, I quit influenced by outside factors. And it is kind of like the Muslim world is a bit isolated, and behind, in behind sort of, in a way, like, CDs came out with some cassettes and things like that. So does this really apply to the youth as well? Like how, how does like being a Muslim, integrate with like the field of social media?

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I think there's a lot of unique challenges for the Muslim for the Muslim community, with the youth, for example. And And the thing is, one thing that you know, is very constant is that social media is a magnifying lens. So it will take whatever already exists in society, and it magnifies it. So we take we take something like Facebook, and what you'll find is a lot of younger people, they might maintain like two profiles. So they'll have one profile that is open to their parents and their relatives and things of that sort. And then they might have another one with like a nickname or a more secret account that they interact with their friends more openly. And yeah, this is not this is

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not something that's new because of the internet.

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You know, people who do that kind of thing all the time, who would act one way at Sunday school and at home and act a different way when they were out with their friends isn't enough

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to do that. Oh, yep.

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Awesome. So is there like a danger behind like, separating like, our kind of online personality?

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Yeah, definitely.

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One of the, one of the main principles with the 40 Hadeeth, of social media booklet that we put out was, you know, there's a Hadith of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said that even the most evil people is the to face person, they show one face to one people in other face to other people. And what's happening is because we, you know, online and offline are becoming intertwined. Now. whereas previously, they were maybe a little bit more separate, where what you did online was separate from offline. Part of the consequence of that, though, is that people start to maintain different personas. So you'll have you know, for example, in the Muslim community, you have people

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online, who are very vocal about Islamic issues, and they're very aggressive.

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And they're very loud of making their opinion known. But if you were to visit their local Masjid, no one would have any idea who they were. And so this kind of dichotomy starts to become really problematic. Yeah, there is this, like, big dichotomy that's going on where people, people are like, much more vocal online? And do you think it's because there's a lot of even more anonymous online? And there's that danger there? Or is there a way that we can actually use this to our advantage?

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Yeah, I mean, there's, again, it's, it's there's pluses and minuses. One is that people are more courageous when they're, when no one knows who it is, if you're tempted to say things that you might not say otherwise.

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So that's problematic in that sense, in terms of a positive.

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I don't know that there's a positive and like maintaining a false persona, that would definitely be a negative, in my opinion. Yeah. But in terms of how to utilize what online is created, it does create like a way to validate your ideas. Now, I'll give you an example.

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And stand up comedians do this a lot. So a stand up comic that's on Twitter, for example. They'll tweet jokes constantly. But what they're really doing is they're validating to see which ones land, they're seeing which ones resonate, which ones people thought were funny, and they might end up working that into their routine that they do. So there is some sense of that space online allows you to validate and vet out ideas that maybe might be more difficult to do in person or like with the mom or something like that. So you have a little bit more freedom to operate in that sense.

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But the anonymity factor,

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it tends to cause more problems, sometimes I think then it helps. Interesting, it's really interesting point. So I just want to shift gears now and talk a bit about the E book that you recently launched the 48th on social media, which I think is awesome, by the way. So it's a really fantastic collection. And there's a point in there that you made that really stuck struck me and it was the fact that our online friends are just as important. And it got me thinking that, you know, I've never seen it that way and I

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kind of sort, like, kind of like a dichotomy, like, my online friends is separate to my friends that I have in person. And they're not really as important, but it's not really the case. And could you tell us a bit more about that?

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Yeah, definitely. So one thing that's interesting, you know, we have a lot of had these, for example, about the virtues of good friendship. And we often assume that they just mean in person. So what are the who are the friends that we get coffee with, that maybe we hang out with that we'd go out to eat with all those types of things, right, just, you know, general things that we would do with friends. And because we have relationships online, we think that is different. We think that it's a different world, when in fact, it really has an effect on us.

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And let me kind of put it in context. You know, traditionally, like when I was growing up, for example, if I was going to hang out with someone, then that meant my parents had to know who the other kid was, they had to make sure that they were okay with me hanging out with them, they had to meet the other kids, parents, make sure they were comfortable with that family. And then they might let us like, go play basketball together. That's almost more of a strict process than you know, some people use to get married now sometimes, right? So. So there were you know, there's a strict process that, for example, my family would put into place before I hung out with someone, right. And then

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slowly over time, you learn things about someone you hang out with them, you learn what type of places they like to eat, at

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who's in their family, what their interests are, it organically grows over time. Now, I might go to let's say, I go to a conference, and I meet someone, and they add me on Facebook. Now I've met this person, one time, I have maybe, let's say, a 15 minute conversation if we're being generous. And I add this person on Facebook. And now I can sit down, take my phone out of my pocket, and within five minutes, I know all of this person's favorite restaurants, I know where they vacationed in the last five years. I know, if they're married, how many kids they have what their kids look like, what the inside of their house looks like, what sports teams, they like, what movies, they like what books

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they've read, I basically get an entire profile breakdown of this person, without even having really met them. And then now let's say that this person lives in a different state, I'm not even interacting with them on a regular basis, I'm not even exchanging text messages with them. But every time I take my phone out, which is, you know, dozens of times a day, I see this person status updates. And whether I like it or not, whatever that person is posting is gonna I'm keeping company with that person. Because every time I take out my phone, I'm seeing what they have to say about something. And that's where, you know, the Hadith is in there about the blacksmith and the perfume

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cellar is that there's like a psychological point being made there. And that is your environment affects you at a deeper level than maybe you're willing to admit or realize. And so when I'm reading a person's updates, you know, maybe 1015 times a day, that's gonna have an effect on me whether I like it or not. And so I've got to be very careful with how I manage that interaction. So we have this constant influence from people that we might even not even know. So is there a way that we can kind of keep these connections, but manage it? Like? How do you manage what you read on what you read on Twitter or Facebook? Are you intentional about what you add? Or follow? How do you go about

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it? Yeah, so I, I kind of treat each space a little bit differently. Um, I actually, despite kind of doing this social media thing as a project, I really hate Facebook and some of these other tools. I'm kind of on them out of necessity.

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Yeah, but what I do is I just try to keep everything very systematic.

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So for example, on Twitter, I will just try not to follow that many people.

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Yeah, if I follow someone, I'll usually like, try to unfollow someone, maybe

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on Facebook, to be honest, and a lot of my friends might get offended if they hear this, but probably 80% of my friends on Facebook, over time, I've gone and manually muted them so that they don't show up in my feed.

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And so

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when I log on Facebook, I really don't see a lot.

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Interesting. And I also just keep my notifications off and things like that.

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But it's it's just a matter of being very intentional with how you use it. Because the thing is, it's a pit, right? If you can sit there and read status updates all day long. And you'll just never notice the time passing by.

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Oh, definitely. Yeah, it's like um, it's like an infinity kind of pool like, but they're so um, you mentioned that you limit limit your Facebook time and your feed and like you meet people. Um, so is there a certain amount of time that you utilize social media like do you put a limit on yourself? What's a day in the life of Omar Smith like

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Good session media, I don't limit my time.

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I probably spend more time on it than I should. But it's

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it's just a matter of trying to keep a system in place, but I don't overuse it.

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So the main, the main strategy for that is I don't have notifications on.

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Okay, so I turned them off on my computer, I turned them off on my phone.

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You know, so like someone Facebook messages me, chances are, I'm probably not going to see it until I just physically have time to go out and check Facebook.

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So see what when you want to see notifications, you physically go on and seek them out? Right? What if I'm on there, then I'll see what's there. But I don't you know, every time someone likes something, I don't want to get a ding, because that just becomes very distracting. I mean, each, like microscopic distraction, in that sense, has like, multiplies the amount of productivity that you lose elsewhere.

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So if I'm on and you know, I mean, the thing is, I will use it when I'm bored. Like, if I'm waiting in line somewhere, something like that, yeah, I'll take out my phone and check everything.

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It's just a matter of just trying to cut down on some of those habits. I know that a lot. I mean, a lot of people, myself included, do use it a lot longer than they'd like to. And a lot of people feel guilty about it. But I rather than feeling guilty about it, I try to just manage certain specific habits. So the one that I'm working on now is I'm trying to make sure that my email is not the first thing I check when I wake up in the morning. Like, I'll try to, I'll try to just keep the phone off in the morning until actually like, sit down at my desk or whatever, and then sit down and check everything at the same time. Because really, like one or two tweaks will solve like a lot of the

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problems. in Ramadan, for example, I deleted Facebook off my phone. So it's not a matter of, I need to deactivate my account and all of that it's, well, if I just delete the app off my phone, then I'll only check it when I'm at my computer. So early on, you mentioned that social media is kind of like a magnifying glass. And, and I just want to talk about it in the sense of like, how we have so much access to so much access to platforms to say anything that we want all the time. And, um, sometimes people, sometimes people will share information that isn't really necessary, necessary to share, and they might even share it, like, for example,

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like sins that they might engage in, like, what's your perspective on that? And, um, could you tell us a bit more about that? Yeah.

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So, you know, I was reading this book, called, it's complicated by Dana Boyd, and she was talking about this somewhat. And there's a deeper problem with a lot of this, like, we'll hone in on like, you know, oh, my God, someone posted a picture of themselves drinking on Facebook. Right. And, yeah, you know, yeah, we know that we shouldn't publicize our sins, and so on and so forth. That's kind of I mean, it's a basic teaching is more or less common sense.

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But there's, there's a deeper societal thing at play here, where,

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just like, we're in unprecedented times, one of the unprecedented things about our time, is that there's people who are famous for the sake of being famous, you know, you take some, like Paris Hilton, or Kim Kardashian or whatever, I mean, these people, they haven't really accomplished something, right. They're, they're famous. And so that just breeds more fame for them. And so what ends up happening is, people see that, in order to be famous and quote, unquote, successful, I need to get attention. And attention is given to people that are sharing controversial things.

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You know, without getting into too many details, you just think about how some of those types of people got famous, and you kind of put the dots together, right? It's, you're just seeking attention for the sake of it, and you might be compromising your values, but the end result they're satisfied with. And so people start to see that, oh, you know, if I just put myself out there, if I just kind of do whatever, all starts to get more likes altered to get more followers, and that will help build it up. And everything around us reinforces that, the more that you do things like that, the more attention people give you. And the way that it's set up, the more attention that you get, the more

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successful you'll become. And even though someone might not consciously be thinking that when they post something,

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but that's one of the environmental factors at play that might affect us without us realizing it.

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Oh, yeah, definitely. So seems like it's like this cycle of reinforcement that's going around like you reinforced for, maybe like posting something that you shouldn't have, and then you get that gratification then like it just fuels that, that ongoing behavior. It's just quite dangerous. There's that aspect of it. Another aspect of it also is

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I think a lot of times people are, I know it's a little bit cliche and kind of weird to say this, but sometimes people are just reaching out for help sometimes. And they might not have another avenue or no another way of expressing back either.

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So it's really important for especially for people

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Parents and some of like the older people in the community to kind of watch for those cues, and pay attention and not just be sorry to beat someone down for posting something like that, but kind of try to figure out what's really going on behind the scenes that made them post that. Yeah, in the background. Yeah. So is it? Is there any kind of like questions that we should ask ourselves before we hit the send button or Post button? Like, what? What should we be kind of what should be going through our mind before we put it out there in the public? This is really difficult. And I try to give myself like a check before posting something, and it's really hard.

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It's easy to say that, you know, we should watch, we should watch our intentions and be well intentioned and things like that. But it gets complicated really fast. So am I posting something, for example, too? Am I when I post something, I'm asking myself a number of questions, or I should be asking myself a number of questions. Am I posting this to show off? Am I posting this to embarrass someone or degrade someone? Or am I attacking someone? Or am I passively aggressively attacking someone? Or am I trying to, like, prove a point and one up someone like there's a lot of different motivations that go into, into posting something? And is is really difficult to manage?

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Sometimes. And this is one of the areas where I think we're going to start to need a little bit more guidance, especially from people who are a little bit better grounded islamically is that we really need to assess what are the different reasons people post the things that they post? What's the line between entertainment and recreation and sharing with friends versus kind of going overboard? And there's not really a clear cut answer to any of those things?

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Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it's kind of like, it's in its own your head and happens in this snapshot. And then it's only later on that you kind of reflect more about it. And I guess just being more intentional with where you are and your thinking. And the other complication that I'll add to that is, it's not even so much sometimes what your intention is, but you might post something, let's say, you know, quote, unquote, in the heat of the moment, when something's happening, and then two years later, someone else might be going through your feed, and they find something, and they'll nitpick, it nitpick at it from a different way, because you're leaving a trail of everything that you post as

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well. So it's not just your intention at that moment in time. It's you also have to start to assess, how will this be interpreted by someone else later on down the road?

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And that's a lot more difficult.

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Definitely, it's, it's so hard to kind of predict what kind of context your your posts from the past might be viewed in. And that that's, that's really scary and something that people need to take into account. So it does seem like there's a lot of things that we should be aware of, and there's like a lot of warnings and things like that. Is it better for us to just stay away from social media altogether and avoid all these traps? Go back to the caves? What are your thoughts? I don't think it's an option.

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I just simply put, I don't think it's an option.

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Social media basically, it's not it. It basically is the internet is communication now, even

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you know, and I mean, for me, personally, I remember the first time my dad sent me a text message. And it felt really awkward and weird, because I wasn't used to communicating with him on that medium. And so it was very strange to like, text with him back and forth. And I'm used to, you know, having a phone conversation.

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But now I'm used to it. Same thing a couple years ago, when my mom first

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opened a Facebook account. That was really strange. And my mom's been thinking about that, too. And so now when I post on Facebook, I'm constantly thinking what, you know, what is my mom gonna say? It's been very weird, because sometimes I'll have posted I'll have posted something that was maybe like an inside joke with some friends or something like that. And within five minutes of posting it, I'll get a phone call asking me like if everything's okay.

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So, the kids, okay, so it's, it's very weird. Sometimes. I mean, but But the thing is, this is how people communicate. This is how people share information. And so if you know if someone feels that they want to just avoid it, I won't criticize that because I think there are a lot of benefits in that. Because you do save yourself from a lot of insanity by not being on any of these platforms, plain and simple.

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But at the same time,

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you have to go to where the people are, if you want to try to do anything productive. And so you've got to be there and taking part I don't think that you can kind of hide from it. This is I'm speaking in general here. And so you've got to know what's going on. If you take parenting

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For example, you know, if your kid is on Facebook, you should be on there so that you know what's going on. If your kids are on Twitter, you should be on there. So you know what's going on.

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And the same thing, it's just, it's a tool. So it's what you make of it.

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If some people don't need that tool, then you know, that's good for them. And I, honestly, I wish I could be of the people that doesn't use it at all. But I'm kind of at the point where I don't feel like I have a choice except to be on there for a number of reasons. But if you are under, then you just got to learn how to manage it properly. Because it can be it can become so consuming that it takes over everything else.

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Absolutely. And I really like the point that you've made there on social media is really what you make of it. And I think that's something that we should really keep in mind. So just before we end off, is there any general advice that you can give our listeners,

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um, I say it's, instead of an advice is maybe more of a request, which is, we need to understand what people's challenges are with using social media, specifically as a Muslim. And I don't mean in the sense that like, oh, there's people that aren't knowledgeable that are projecting themselves as scholars and things like that. Those are kind of obvious things. But more in terms of even how we manage our friendships, our own personal, because there's a lot of lines, especially with like gossip, and backbiting and things that are very strict and basic in our religion, that sometimes we blur the lines when it comes to our online interactions. And so in order to start addressing them,

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we really need to kind of understand

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what people's issues and concerns are in order to address them. And then maybe as a as a point of advice, I would just say,

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not to overcomplicate things, you know, the the thing is as, as the technology becomes more complex, we complicate the way that we think about it. And in reality, it's much simpler than that. If you know that, regardless of what the platform is, whether it's Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever they invent two years from now, or five years from now, the basic principles and common sense we're never going to change. And I think if people just kind of held to just their core, basic, like the things that your parents raised you to do, just how you talk to people, how you interact with others, it really solves more than 80% of the problems that we see.

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Fantastic. Well, that's actually great advice, guys. Don't overcomplicate things and just stick to stick to morals, right.

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before we end off over, thank you so much for joining us, first of all, and where can our listeners find you on the net? Where can they get access to your content? So the first would be the website, which is thick of social media. And that's that's the entire URL. So HTTP fic of social media.

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And they can sign up and get the 40 headies booklet and everything there. Or on twitter at a been a B Omer IB and a b, e. o Mar.

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Fantastic. So guys, if you're not already in touch with

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Mr. Smith and his work, get in touch with him, get the 40 heads on social media.

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You will not regret it and it will change your perspective on how on how you view this awesome platform. So thank you, thank you, once again, for the Omar for joining us. We really appreciate it. And inshallah we get to do another interview with you down the track. All right, looking forward. Looking forward to it. Thanks for having me. No worries.

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Okay, so that concludes our interview with brother Omar asthma. As mentioned in this interview, you can find him on Twitter and on the thick of social media website which was thick of social media. You can also get your hands on the free 40 Hadith on social media guide, which was referenced in this interview. If you go to that website, and of course, you can find this link on our show notes over at Muslim life hackers.com slash 40. Also, if you're listening to this Muslim life hackers podcast, then I assume you're on the lookout for more podcasts to subscribe to. Because if you aren't, then make sure you check out owners podcast reruns, which is called debt free Muslims

00:29:11--> 00:29:48

podcast. And you can find that over at debt free Muslims calm. Alternatively, if you're listening through, if you're listening to this interview through iTunes or a podcast app, then you can simply just search up debt free Muslims, and you can be able to subscribe to this podcast. So do check it out. And if you've enjoyed this interview, then make sure you tweet the love by going to Muslim life hackers.com slash love. And what would happen is you get a pre written tweet about Muslim life hackers, and you can just hit the tweet button and help us reach more people and continue to benefits again. We hope you enjoyed this podcast. And until next time, we'll see you again