Last Ramadhan, I uploaded a Photoshop doodle of some lessons I learnt during a class conducted by Safinah. It took me less than thirty minutes, and I did not think much of it before I clicked ‘publish’. I simply wanted to share.
A year later, that one image has been reblogged on Tumblr close to two thousand times, with countless more ‘shares’ on Facebook. In fact, just a few days ago, I saw a local Islamic paper sharing it on their Facebook wall.
It struck me there and then how the Internet allows us to literally see how our words, the messages we relay, have an effect that lasts longer and spreads wider than that specific moment we indulge in it.
Additionally, even as we move on from that message, the message does not move on from us; it remains tied to our name, drifting along with millions of other messages out in the world wide web, ready to be read and shared.
Prior to the Internet, when I relay a message to a friend, I can only see the communication that happens during that exact moment the conversation is happening. What I don’t get to see is my friend sharing the message with her friend, and so on and so forth. The ripple caused by my message is invisible to my eyes.
Today, social media and micro-blogging allows ease of sharing messages. Most importantly in relevance to this discussion, it allows the easy collection of data in measuring that ripple – a thousand shares, two thousand retweets, three thousands reblogs!
MasyaAllah! Congratulations are in order!
Or is it?
What having access to data like these essentially mean is the underlying assumption that I am aware of the immediate and probable reach of the messages I convey. When I put up an FB status, I am aware that more than 500 people will read it. When I tweet 140 characters, I am aware that it is being pushed out to the phones of my 300 followers. When I comment on a popular thread with 10,000 likes and shares, I am aware that all these people will have access to what I said.
With awareness, I will thus be held fully accountable for the messages I relay to all of these people. The ripple is no longer invisible. I now know.
And you do too.
Communicating online – putting up a status, commenting, tweeting etc – has become second nature to us, so much so that our fingers have become extensions of our tongue. In fact, some may even argue that speaking with our fingers have become the de facto mode of communicating. After all, traditional verbal communication requires a present audience, while communicating through the Internet means having an audience around the clock.
Additionally, in the hedonistic nature of society today, communicating online becomes an additional tool to feed our need for self-gratification. It allows ease for us to share the things we like, impress our opinions on others, or declare our stand in this matter or that.
Because communicating online is so easy and so gratifying, many, including myself, have fallen into the trap of rendering our communication cheap. We share everything, comment on anything and leave alone nothing.
We no longer think of the repercussions of the messages we deliver. We don’t think of the ripples our messages cause, nor do we think of the permanence of our messages.
We send a message, and we forget about it. Little do we realize that our messages don’t forget us.
Returning to the Tumblr image I mentioned in the beginning of this entry, the thought that got me quaking in my seat is the realization that if that image had been negative, I would have acquired countless and ongoing sins for the rest of my life for something I did in the span of thirty minutes.
Likewise, even if that image is positive, the next question that begs to be asked is one that is in the Qur’an, “Do you order people to devoutness and forget yourselves, when you recite the Book? Will you not use your intellect?”. Knowledge will be made accountable, it is not free. Many of us (myself especially) forget that.
Perhaps, in the month of Ramadhan where we strive our best to digest the messages Allah swt delivers to us through the Qur’an, we should also strive to reflect on the messages we deliver to others.
Take a moment to think of the ripples that will be caused. Take a moment to think about the permanence of that message. Take a moment to think how that message will speak for you, or against you, on the Day of Judgement.
Two thousand reblogs might sounds impressive right now, but in the hereafter?
Only Allah swt can communicate that answer.