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My Thoughts on Moderation and My Use of Social Media
Not long ago, I took the plunge and went on a social media detox. (Please note: this was well before the release of The Social Dilemma documentary when people were uninstalling their apps in hordes).
The reason I decided to clear my phone of some select apps was that I found they were having a negative effect on my mental and social well-being. I was spending far too much time scrolling fanatically through my news feeds, changing swiftly from one app to another and then back again, and subconsciously becoming burdened by the nonsensical task of checking all my notifications. My days were fettered by comparison, vain imaginings and an attachment to the world, and I knew it wasn’t healthy.
However, after some much-needed reflection, I realised it was a classic case of “It’s not you. It’s me”, with the “you” in question being social media. I came to the conclusion that while Instagram and Facebook weren’t necessarily mitigating my social media addiction, I did need to strengthen my ability to use these platforms sensibly and in moderation. Abdu’l-Baha says:
Our greatest efforts must be directed towards detachment from the things of the world; we must strive to become more spiritual, more luminous, to follow the counsel of the Divine Teaching, to serve the cause of unity and true equality, to be merciful, to reflect the love of the Highest on all men, so that the light of the Spirit shall be apparent in all our deeds, to the end that all humanity shall be united, the stormy sea thereof calmed, and all rough waves disappear from off the surface of life’s ocean henceforth unruffled and peaceful. 1
In light of this quotation, I reflected upon whether my social media use was in fact directing my efforts towards detachment or not. The answer, quite simply, was no. Our immersion in the digital sphere can have harrowing effects on our mental health as well as our ability to create genuine relationships.
That’s not to say that our use of social media can’t be constructive and that it can’t contribute towards the building of community. Even though the old world order is crumbling, that shouldn’t stop us from building a new world using whatever tools and skills we have at our disposal. In my opinion, the media can and should play an integral role in this redevelopment.
As Baha’is, we are very lucky to have the Writings guide us in our efforts towards the advancement of our civilisation. The Universal House of Justice states:
The followers of the Blessed Beauty must be conscious and conscientious users of any technology they decide to utilize and must apply insight and spiritual discipline. They should look to the lofty standards of the Cause to guide them at all times in the way they express themselves. 2
Of course, this is much easier said than done. When we use any form of media, we fall into the trap of turning to other sources to find information, truth, guidance and strength. As we scroll for hours on end on our devices, we can easily become distracted from reality instead of focused on the one source we should be directing our energy and attention. The Universal House of Justice states:
Yet another sacred duty is that of clinging to the cord of moderation in all things, lest they who are to be the essence of detachment and moderation be deluded by the trappings of this nether world or set their hearts on its adornments and waste their lives. 3
And from Baha’u’llah:
It is incumbent upon them who are in authority to exercise moderation in all things. Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. 4
At first I didn’t think this quotation applied to me. I’m not a leader or person in authority. Surely Baha’u’llah is referring to government officials, world leaders, business owners, CEOs and the like. But upon further reflection, I realised that all of us are in some position of authority. I am a mother of three children. I am a (small) business owner. What sort of influence will I have if I become a slave to the workings of my smart phone? Baha’u’llah also says:
Consider for instance such things as liberty, civilization and the like. However much men of understanding may favorably regard them, they will, if carried to excess, exercise a pernicious influence upon men…. Please God, the peoples of the world may be led, as the result of the high endeavors exerted by their rulers and the wise and learned amongst men, to recognize their best interests. 4
While we are told that anything carried to excess has a pernicious influence upon us, Baha’u’llah also states that various elements of our civilisation can prove as much a source of “goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation.” 5
Undeniably, social media acts as a tool for connectivity, storytelling, empowerment, inspiration, friendship and community. A few months ago, I set up a couple of new pages on Instagram – one to accompany my business and the other a newfound hobby of mine. Through setting up these pages, I discovered an amazing community of like-minded individuals who I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with on a deeply spiritual level. It’s almost like the virtual world has opened up an array of new opportunities for friendship, teaching, and engaging in elevated conversations. These are opportunities I would not have been afforded had it not been for COVID-19, and had I not been forced into finding varying means for connection.
Some more specific examples of how we can become inspired by the content across our social channels include the stunning Baha’i Instagram accounts which further promote Baha’u’llah’s Cause of Oneness, Baha’i Blog’s very own Personal Reflections project which connects us to friends from around the world, showcases from various Baha’i communities which empower us to serve our neighbourhoods, and pages by various Baha’i creatives that bring the Word of God to life for our viewing pleasure.
We also shouldn’t deny that thanks to social media, the world is able to engage in elevated dialogues and conversations on a global scale – something that would not have been possible decades ago. It is through our social platforms that we are provided with a mirror of the world – however dubious – and are able to contribute towards a heightened discourse. The Universal House of Justice states:
…what particularly differentiates the present age from those that preceded it is how so much of this discourse occurs in full view of the world. Social media and related communication tools tend to give the greatest exposure to all that is controversial, and the very same tools allow individuals, in an instant, to disseminate more widely whatever catches their attention and to register their support or opposition to various sentiments, whether explicitly or tacitly. 2
The House of Justice does continue with a word of caution, however:
The unparalleled ease with which a person can join in such public debate and the nature of the technology make momentary lapses of judgement and incautious actions more likely and their residue more enduring. 2
At the end of The Social Dilemma, we are told that these platforms and apps could be redesigned in a way that contributes towards the greater good. It is up to us to decide whether we wait around for that to happen, or whether we take the Writings as our source of guidance, exercising detachment and moderation and using this tool as a way to build community.
For all those wondering, my “social media detox” is usually pretty short-lived, and I regularly find myself back in the sphere sharing my family’s musings and connecting with my networks of friends and relatives. But as soon as I feel my usage is overstepping the bounds of moderation, I make sure to rectify the situation. As Baha’u’llah has revealed:
“In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation”. 6
Dellaram is a Baha'i, wife, and mother of three, who works as a freelance journalist and copywriter in her hometown of Ballarat, Australia. She is passionate about building community and loves the thrill that comes with op-shopping!