Avoiding a Harmful E-Diet

As a reminder to myself and to my readers, here’s an excellent piece from Suhaib Webb‘s site.


Avoiding a Harmful E-Diet

by Naiyerah Kolkailah

Food is a necessity in life. But keep over-eating (irrespective of nutritional value), and you can become overweight and obese. Eat unhealthy, fatty foods, and you get high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other nasty illnesses and diseases. The Internet can be compared to our relationship with food. It is a great tool that provides us innumerable benefits. But if we over-indulge or keep ingesting unwholesome pieces and quantities, it can ruin our physical, spiritual and mental health.

With the plethora of content in cyberspace, it’s difficult to maneuver without feeling overwhelmed and virtually claustrophobic. It’s a challenge to be selective in what to read, who to talk to, and what activities to engage in. It’s a struggle to even turn off our electronic gadgets that constantly beep, flash and vibrate with new e-mails, updates, and instant messages. Someone or some group always wants to show and tell us something—always wanting immediate attention. If we comply—all the time—we’ll be hooked for good, and always waiting for more.

The Internet will gladly consume our thoughts and time, if we let it. Our unhealthy online habits can detract from nourishing our real-life interactions, from excelling at work or in school, from reading beneficial books and publications, and from spending quality time with friends and family. We can develop a horizontal approach, broadening our exposure to numerous people and information while developing little to no depth in any of our relationships or knowledge of certain subjects.  Our incessant perusal through other people’s pictures, videos, and blogs can make us aimless consumers, and distract us from leaving our own meaningful footprint in cyberspace. Worse, our online sins can develop into addictions that violate our moral code, eat away at our soul, translate into real-life sins, and sever our relationships with spouses and loved ones. If we find ourselves developing any of these problems, we might consider doing the following:

1.      Unplug. Log-off. Disconnect. Give your eyes (and ears) a break. Go to a park, or watch a sunset. Enjoy the solitude. Listen to the chirping birds, rustling leaves, and the streaming rivers and creeks. Praise God for the beauty in His creation. Bond with your spouse, children or siblings. Talk about your hopes, dreams, fears and needs. Have a cup of coffee with real friends, and connect in person. Catch up on all the unread messages in the Qur’an. Reflect on their meanings, and on your purpose in life. Try making these daily or weekly habits. Be present with your heart, mind, body and soul.

2. Minimize. When you’re back online, think small. Take bite-size portions you can chew. Be selective. Choose quality over quantity. Read only some posts, watch only some videos. Maybe read an e-book instead. Remember to leave room for breathing space, and digestion. Try not to multi-task online. Don’t toggle between so many tabs and conversations, or jump from wall to wall, and post to post. Focus, process, reflect. Ponder on how you can apply new lessons in your life. Then take time away to implement.

3.      Refine. Think of your activities online. Evaluate your surfing, speaking, and spamming. Is it useful, appropriate, and modest? Is it impulsive or superfluous? Choose your words wisely, cautiously, courteously. If they’re with the opposite gender, make them kind but modest. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Try expressing thoughts and feelings in words, rather than using emoticons. Use proper grammar. Take the time to infuse your communication with excellence. Don’t abbreviate, abridge, and shorten where length is valued. Don’t expose, reveal and elongate where concealment is needed.  Before you share, post and forward, check if you’ve benefited and reflected.

Remember, from all the online struggles, addiction to viewing pornography can become a clinical problem. It is complicated by changes in brain chemistry, which are difficult to reverse. Don’t let it happen to you. If it already has, seek professional help to prevent further harm to you and your loved ones.

Finally, I’d like to share a passage from Elias Aboujaoude’s Virtually You: the Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality. It sums up the dangers and hopes for the new virtual phenomena quite eloquently:

Virtualism, as enabled especially by the Internet, is a major signpost in our journey through history. There can be no doubting that it has opened windows and brought opportunity—for social connection and outreach, for liberation from anxiety and doubt, for financial and personal success, and for self-realization and fulfillment. Similarly, there can be no doubt any longer the big experiment we are conducting with our psyches. To offer a psychological read of the virtual age is to offer a candid assessment of an encounter between humankind and a new type of machine—one that is not entirely inanimate; that can be alluring, deceptive, and addictive at the same time; and that can efficiently prey on our basic instincts and impulses, our need for amusement and information, and our never-ending search for longing, and self-betterment. Yet for all the problems and “for the worse” changes this machine might have introduced into our lives, we are not lesser for it; only much more complicated…I hope that we will someday be able to measure the World Wide Web’s legacy beyond gross domestic product indexes, efficiency gains, and the number of smiling emoticons flying through the ether. Only then can we honestly rejoice in the Internet’s many real bounties1


The Final Goodbye

The end.

It’s been a long time coming, but it only hit me now – and it’s given me much to think about; with sadness and longing – because I’ve always been very sentimental about the past.

Let me explain: For the last 12 or so years, I’ve lived in Cape Town. But I was born and raised in Durban. It’s my home city – the place I grew up in, and where I got my education. The place of my childhood memories – those sunny Durban days where everything was so relaxed, and there was no responsibility and no worry. Just innocence…play….childhood.

But over the last 12 years, we’ve still had a family home in Durban. There was always a place to stay – a home of our own – when we went back. We never had to stay at our relatives’ homes, or live in hotels. We always had our own home there. A home filled with our furniture and belongings; old photographs; wall hangings; even our own atmosphere. It was home. It was my other home. And my heart was – and still is – so dearly attached to it.

Now that home is about to become history. We’ve sold it.

And while that doesn’t technically sever my ties with Durban (since I have so much family there still), to me, it is the end. Because if I go back now, it’ll be as a visitor. It won’t be to my home – my family home.

My memories of that particular home – which was in reality the fourth home I’d had in Durban in my life – begin when I finished university. We moved in at the end of that year, amidst boxes and boxes of stuff, lots of stress, and my personal sadness at saying goodbye to my previous home – the house I’d spent my teenage years and parts of early adult life in.

It was one of the saddest periods of my life, both for personal reasons, as well as the uncertainty of my future (I’d just graduated, but had no idea what I’d be doing the next year – for no job offers had come by that time).

And the sadness did continue for some years after that; although it was mixed with enjoyment – because that home was a place I’d go on holiday, and have no work to do. I loved that aspect of it. The feeling of being there in the festive season each December – when things were relaxed, people were on holiday, and there was usually a cricket Test match being played at Kingsmead (where, very often, bad light would stop play early).

The days and nights were hot and humid, and the nights often brought multitudes of lightning flashes – which I had never really noticed in my teenage years; but did notice now that I had an expansive view of part of the area.

I’d get to eat the foods I loved from Durban; I’d get to frequent the neighborhood I spent so many years in; I’d spend time with family; I’d get to go to Jumuah in the masjid I knew from my teenage years – but now being so much more spiritually mature compared to back then.

I’d get this awesome view from that home – looking out over the city and Indian Ocean; being able to see the golden lights of the harbor at night; the Bluff; and the hills on one side that concealed the area where I used to go to High School.

At night, the experience was both exhilarating and scary – looking out into the dark night at the city and ocean, and sky above – sometimes cloudy and overcast. I felt like I was up in those clouds – far from earth. If I closed my eyes, tilted my head up, then opened my eyes again, it was like there was no Earth below – there was only sky. Wide open, cold, vast, immense sky. It was at times like those when I felt so tremendously close to my Creator. Being physically removed from my usual home and life in Cape Town, I’d be in that place – at that window – able to reflect on so many things; and able to speak to my Lord in ways that were so unconstrained by the mental chains that would often drag me down in other environments.

It’s moments like those that I treasure so much. Moments that no material thing in the world could ever come close to. Moments that, nowadays, have become so few and far between.

And in one of those moments, I made a dua for the next time I’d be there: that, the next time I come to this home, I wanted to be married. Alhamdullilah – sure enough, the next time I went (2 years later), I was married, and my daughter was tucked safely in the womb, still in the early stages of her development.

But life has moved on so much since then, and things are so different. I have my own family now; and a whole life that’s so far away from Durban – both in time and physical space.

Still, though, my heart is tremendously attached to Durban. I love it dearly, and it’s always been – and always will be – a big part of me.

And it’s sad to say goodbye; but goodbyes are a part of life. I’m grateful to have had the life – the experiences – I had in Durban. And I hope those will be memories that I hang on to and treasure forever.