Contemplating through the lens of motherhood, I wanted to document five lessons social media has taught me and how this will affect my parenting.
Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Facebook, and social media feel unnerving and inextricable from our lives. As a teenager, many of these platforms were a salient part of my social life. Their impact on my psyche, morale, and perspective was challenging. At the time, I felt lost in the digital tsunami of likes, airbrushed selfies, ruthless anonymous messages, and the obscured battle for social validation. So the usual tribulations of self-esteem and identity crises that all teenagers grapple with were intensified. Ten years later, reflecting on these years as a mother is cathartic and alarming all at once. As I dug out of this spiral, I rediscovered myself and my faith, as prosaic as it sounds. But the truth is, I could have easily sunk deeper. I was fortunate to have support, resources, guidance, and compassion. Our lives are only becoming more enmeshed in technology, and I wonder what this means for my two-year-old daughter and her future. How will I help her navigate this? What sort of novel challenges will come her way?
For my parents, this new world ablaze by the glow of their teenagers’ screens was unfathomable. They had no way of knowing how profoundly social media would impact their daughter’s self-esteem and nearly destroy her. This virtual reality is trivial in comparison to all they have endured. As for me, I did not yet have the language to express my inner world to them. It was no one’s fault but rather an unfortunate new world for everyone to learn about together. Contemplating this through the lens of motherhood, I wanted to document five lessons social media has taught me and how this will affect my parenting.
It’s Not Just About Protecting Them. It’s About Equipping Them With the Right Tools
I have spent an interminable period worrying about my brand-new baby’s future. I felt shattered at the thought of my daughter ever having to know the pain, confusion, and loss of faith I experienced. I’ve come to realize my role as her parent is not to shield her from the world; in fact, that would be a disservice to do so.
For my daughter, I have to heal from my trauma so I can teach her to be emotionally intelligent and be a person who is thoughtful, not reactive, introspective, and not self-deprecating. I have to help her connect with the world without a digital screen.
Teach Her How to Use Social Media for Good
Social media and the internet are not inherently malicious entities. They are tools, and how we utilize them is what counts. We have an advantage now as parents; we have personal knowledge. Our generation grew up to witness the power that social media can generate. There is potential to transform the world, enhance your professional aspirations, and violently polarize communities. I will shift her perspective and remind her that our activities online and offline will be equally judged by Allah. We must aspire to bring peace, unity, and truth in everything, and our online presence can be a great asset.
Who We Follow Matters
Whether we consume media through these platforms, books, movies, or the internet, our faith, minds, and hearts will be influenced! It happens subtly; we follow a figure and absorb their content, values, and lifestyles. Suddenly, we can not understand why we are in a state of apprehension, why our image of ourselves is so uninviting, and why our faith feels tenuous. And why our confidence is waning. It enters our lives in an almost insidious manner. That is why we must train ourselves and our children to routinely evaluate who and what we are following, especially in moments of mental anguish. We must be critical of what we allow into our hearts and lives.
Build A Solid Foundation for Their Deen
Even with all the knowledge, tools, and preparation, our children will make mistakes and embark on a journey to solidify and understand their identities. Just as vital as it is for them to be confident that they can turn to us, they should have no qualms about the mercy of Allah and Islam. A secure faith and knowledge of Islam will provide them with solace and the fundamentals of akhlaq, modesty, compassion, and critical thinking. This, in turn, will aid them in remaining thoughtful and self-assured if they choose to have an online presence. Moreover, intimately knowing our Prophet PBUH and other noble figures in our rich tradition will enable them to be selective on the modern figures they may choose to follow and be aware that Islam has given us true dignified models to emulate.
Fill Their Cups
Both children and adults often become immersed in social media because it provides them with something lacking in real life; connection. It is necessary to have candid discussions and talk to them with empathy. Our children require that we show them how to problem-solve, have genuine remorse and humility should their behavior necessitate, and not simply punish and close the door. Making efforts for family time and one-on-one time to check in while respecting their boundaries and autonomy as developing individuals will be emphatically substantive in how they approach their online world and their entire lives.