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Writers’ words and the social media experience

I’m starting to recognize that people’s written words can create just as much “noise” as their spoken words do; possibly even more.

I can’t stop myself from conducting internal analyses of my social media experiences of the past few years. In one way they’ve been enriching. But in others they’ve been detrimental.

I switched off comments from followers on my Facebook statuses recently and suddenly it feels like so much noise has been removed from my life. It’s so much calmer and quieter. Not only do I now get much fewer comments on my statuses but also the ones I do get from friends are significantly more balanced and reasonable in every way.

As someone who writes for a living (I’m a science journalist although you’d probably never guess that from my blogging style), I find myself longing for the days when feedback on writers’ work was relatively less intrusive.

I wonder sometimes if I just struggle because I do certain things differently than others and thus find it difficult to accept their ways. When I read something – anything (a book, an article in the media, a social media status, a blog post) – I will either connect with it or I will not. Sometimes I don’t connect from the very start and I just pass it and move to something else. Sometimes I completely disagree with someone’s words but I find the logic interesting so I continue to read in order to learn what others’ thinkings on matters might be. Sometimes I find someone’s words just plain offensive. Depending on how offensive they are I’ll either not read on or I might remove that person’s words from my reading lists. So rarely do I ever comment on what other people write. Not that their words are unworthy of comment. It’s just that I internalize their words and try to find a way for me to make meaning of them for myself. Never – or at the very most extremely rarely – have I used someone’s written words as a way to judge their person or personality. Perhaps, as a writer, I simply know that would be a futile exercise. (more…)

Opinions That Matter and Those That Harm

Over the past few weeks especially, I’ve struggled with the intrusiveness that social media can bring. I wrote an Arabic language Facebook status several weeks ago that went viral, bringing in some 15,000 new Arab (mainly Egyptian as far as I can tell) followers in one day. Today, I have more than 22,000 people following me on Facebook. It has completely destabilized the way I use the medium.

I have many more followers on Twitter. My tweets during and after the Egyptian revolution followed by other tweets about Egypt and later about travel have resulted in almost 80,000 people following me on Twitter. But my relationship with Twitter thawed long ago. People I followed on Twitter (mainly Egyptians) had become very “loud” and whiny. “Conversations” seemed more like personal attacks. The small space available for words made me feel points weren’t getting across or were getting across in the wrong “tone”. I now rarely use Twitter. I mainly use it to tell people when I’ve published a new blog post.

But I was enjoying my relationship with Facebook. I was voicing opinions, telling stories and getting mainly what I would call reasonable and balanced comments in return. Mean people were few and far between and easy to deal with. Usually I didn’t have to deal with them at all. Friends or followers would respond on my behalf and the meany would feel outnumbered and eventually go away.

Now things have changed. And my experience of the past few weeks has caused me to think more and more about how some people’s opinions can be beneficial and thought-provoking while other people’s words can be very personal and hurtful. My experience has caused me to wonder whether I really want to know what everyone thinks about a particular topic or if I’d rather personally choose who I want to hear from. It’s also caused me to think more about the consequences of sharing information. If I share relatively personal information or opinions through social media, does that automatically give others the right to voice their opinions about me as a person? (more…)

I’m a Social Media Addict: Not

On January 6 this year, I suddenly woke up to the conclusion that I was addicted to social media. I wrote a blog post about this and decided I needed to cut down on my social media use. The following day I posted an update on my progress. This is my third and last update of my social media abstinence experiment. (more…)

I’m a Social Media Addict: End of Day 1

Today I decided to decrease my social media use. I’ve tried this before but it has never lasted for very long. A friend of mine was visiting yesterday and he told me how much better – and less stressful – his life had become ever since he stopped using Facebook six months ago. He also said that that he read lots of books since then. That’s when I decided: that’s it. I’m doing this. I’ve been wondering if I was missing out on life because of my over-use of social media. Now is the time to see if that is the case.

Today I went onto Facebook and Twitter twice. The first time this morning I probably spent about 30 minutes on it. This evening I found myself less interested in going through all my friends’ feeds. I scrolled down just a little bit and then stopped. I didn’t feel like I needed more.

During the day, I did feel a bit of tension every time a thought went through my head that I would normally immediately share on social media. But that tension was balanced out by a general sense of relaxation. I felt more relaxed today than I have in awhile, actually. It is almost as if being constantly on social media gives me some sort of an adrenaline high. Or perhaps it is the constant state of engagement that I’m in while I’m on social media. I was also spared the negative news I frequently find on my feeds and the general negativity that my friends will frequently and understandably express. (more…)

My Name Is Nadia and I’m a Social Media Addict (I Think): The Start

For a while now I’ve wanted to decrease my current level of social media activity. I think I’ve become dependent on it: addicted tosocialmedia it in a way.  I’d like to tell myself that this is partly due to the fact that I do not currently work fulltime. But if I take my memories back to when I was working full time, I think it is safe to say that I was over-using social media back then as well.

I can’t help but wonder what I might be missing out on in life because my face is stuck to a screen for so long.

I’ve been feeling a bit of a failure for the past two or three years, you see. I am a person who sees the amazing potential that I have but who also has almost no idea whatsoever to do with it. My personal circumstances have meant that I have had those two or three years without fulltime employment. But during that time I have been racking my brains over what to do next. I have an internal need to be innovative and creative but then I don’t know what to innovate or create.

Would I find the answers to many of the great questions of life if I spent less time on social media? (more…)

Is Egypt Really Self-Destructing? Observations From My 1st Day Back

This post is directed to Egyptians using social media:

I am terribly disappointed in you.

I have only been away from Egypt for three months. In those three months I have followed my close friends on Facebook and a large number of Egyptians on Twitter who have yelled wolf, screamed, and waved their hands in the air as one drowning. Almost everything I read on Egypt’s social media over the past three months gave me the impression that Egypt was about to self-destruct. I was terrified to come home. What I read made me feel like I wouldn’t be safe in Egypt. What I read convinced me that there was no stability in Egypt. I had already started considering the possibility of immigrating with my children to another country.

It took me only one day back in Egypt running normal errands to see that the country is exactly the same country that it has been for more than 20 years. All the bad stuff is still here. But all the good stuff is still here too. I wasn’t raped or harassed. Bearded men and face-veiled women had nothing but smiles on their faces and kind words on their tongues. The supermarket and mall were full of people buying things, meaning there must still be money in the country. Egyptian men are not out to rape me. The Islamists are not out to eat me alive. And the economy is still chugging along.

What Egyptians are posting through social media will inevitably keep Egyptians abroad from feeling safe enough to come home and tourists from feeling safe enough to visit the country.

Egypt is the same that it has been for 20 years. Yes. We have had a revolution and very little has changed for the better. But we still have lots of hope that it will. For change to happen we need to work very hard. Real change does not happen in 18 days. Real change takes decades of hard work.

If you are an Egyptian using social media, take some time to consider what you post before you post it. By focusing only on the negative you make it appear much worse than it actually is. By refraining to mention the positive, you make it appear that Egypt is nothing but a pile of shit. For those of us who are not always in Egypt, we have come to depend on social media users to get a sense whether what is published in the media is representative of reality or if it’s an exaggeration of it. When we see Egyptians echoing what the media says, we believe it. So stop blaming the media for scaremongering. Most Egyptians using social media are doing it far better than the media is. What that means is that Egyptians living abroad and tourists will not want to come to Egypt. Our country needs them both if we are to develop and to prosper.

Before you write your next status or tweet your next tweet, consider what effect it will have on people outside of the country. You terrified me. I am sure you are terrifying others. Be honest. Be balanced. Write as much about the positive as you do about the negative. Build Egypt. Stop destroying it.

 

Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part VI: Help, and Lack Thereof, Electronic and Otherwise, Along the Way

It’s a great time to be stranded out there in the world. It’s almost impossible to be completely on your own in such a situation. Throughout my journey I was able to keep in touch with friends, family, and other stranded people, mainly through connecting to the Internet on my mobile phone. When I needed to make a quick phone call, I was always able to no matter where I was because I had my mobile phone on roaming.

My Twitter feed after arrival in Cairo

Twitter was a God-send to me. Bharat got to calling me “Twitterer”, he saw me using it so often. I used Twitter for a variety of things. Before I decided to take the leap and make my journey back to Cairo over the European continent, I used Twitter to follow the latest updates by Heathrow Airport, Eurocontrol, and fellow Twitterers. By doing this, I kept up-to-date on the latest developments on the volcano eruptions and the reactions of airports and governments to them.

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Twitter, Facebook, polygamy, Irshad Manji and Islamic reform

During the past couple of days, I’ve had a couple of conversations on Twitter and Facebook that were related to Islam in one way or another. I thought I’d share.

Polygamy in Islam

The first was a short Facebook conversation that started when a FB friend posted an article by Nadine El-Bedayr, a Saudi television presenter. Nadine had written a previous rather provocative article in Egypt’s independent daily Al-Masry Al-Yowm titled “Me and My Four Husbands“. The article basically addressed the logic behind polygamy by saying that if men are allowed to marry four wives women should be allowed to as well. The article – and Nadine – created havoc and lots of denunciations of the woman. Nadine went on to write a second article “What’s Wrong With You? Why All the Anger?”. This was the post my Facebook friend made.

What I’d like to share is my comment to this post. I’m a bit concerned that all I’ll get in return is pretty much the same reaction Nadine got. But I’m willing to try my hand at freedom of speech and thought. My comment:

“I think this is a very brave woman. She has raised a sensitive issue in a provocative way; the only way it can truly be raised to illicit truthful answers. She was brave enough to raise it fully knowing that we live in a judgmental society that shows no mercy. I salute this woman.

“I remember growing up as a child and later on as a young woman always questioning in my mind the logic behind allowing polygamy for men. I was told things like: it’s to protect women who cannot find husbands; it’s to protect men who have a high sexual urge that cannot be met by one woman; it’s to protect men who fall in love with a second woman; it’s to allow men who have married infertile wives to have children while not having to leave their first wife, and on and on. Then I would ask, sometimes out loud, well what about the woman? What if the woman marries a man who cannot have children? What if the woman falls in love with another man? What if the woman has sexual urges that cannot be satisfied by one man? I was mostly hush-hushed, of course, but TOLD that women are different than men (of course I am told this mainly by men who seem to know everything about women). Women’s sexual urges, I’m TOLD, are much different and less than the fire of a man’s urges. Women can only love one man but men have the ability to love more than one woman. Besides, I was told, it is absolutely disgusting the concept of a woman having the “thing” of more than one man in her thing. And besides, I was also told, we need to protect our lineages. We know the father when the man has sex with more than one woman. We do not know the father if the mother has sex with more than one man. But I always had these two questions: well, if it’s disgusting for a woman to have more than one man’s thing in her, why isn’t it just as disgusting for the man to put his thing in more than one woman? And we now live in a day and age where it is very easy to find out who the father of a child is by DNA testing.

“I am also absolutely convinced that men have convinced themselves for hundreds of years that their sexual urges are much larger than women’s. Well, I’m sorry to break their bubble, but they are wrong.

“So I have been needing for years to find someone brave enough to go out in public and question this logic we’ve been faced with all our lives.

“Because I’m telling ya, it makes absolutely no sense to me. And I know my God would want me to use my head to find truth and not just sit back and have someone dictate truth to me.

“Nadine, my hat goes off to you.”

Twitter, Irshad Manji and Islamic Reform

On Twitter, @pakinamamer, a friend of mine, had mentioned a name I had not heard of before, Irshad Manji. I quickly checked out her website. Here is the conversation we had on Twitter with a couple of other fellow tweeps (and friends):

NadiaE: @pakinamamer who is irshad manji? I think I’m under the same rock

pakinamamer: @NadiaE A Muslim feminist (and a lesbian I was just told) who’s fighting for a more “moderate” inclusive Islam: http://www.irshadmanji.com/

NadiaE: @pakinamamer interesting…

TravellerW: @pakinamamer @nadiae I hate to break to u but Irshad Manji is a joke. No real arguments, plenty of daddy issues; “dad’s an ass=Muslims suck”

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamer I dont know the woman and only quickly looked at her blog. But she’s clearly a Pakistani Muslim brought up abroad…

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamer and there are countless Pakistani and Indian Muslim women in particular who have grown up abroad who have had it hard

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer theyr raised in 1 envt but expected to live the life of their ancestors. Theyr forced into marriages they dont want

NadiaE: @travellerw @pakinamer and a version of faith is forced on them; one they see no logic in. Not in defense of anyone particular,…

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer but there are REASONS some people have “daddy issues” and dad is an ass = Muslims are too

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer I can’t speak about all Pakistanis but I did read her book. And her conclusion is that if her father mistreated her,…

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer …. it’s because he’s a muslim. Hence, Islam sucks. That’s the summary of the book.

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer She seems harmless enough, but I put her in the same box as ayaan hirsi ali.

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamer well, perhaps her father told her he treated her that way BECAUSE of Islam – his version of course

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer her website says she’s calling for Islamic reform. There are so many perverted versions of Islam out there now…

TravellerW: @NadiaE @pakinamamer Even if. If she’s a ‘muslim reformer’ or ‘thinker’ she should’ve realised her dad doesn’t represent 1.25 billion, no?

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer that at least I’m sure we can agree we do need reform

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer Oooh…I’ll bet he represents a large enough number nonetheless

TravellerW: @NadiaE @pakinamamer Sure. But there are many people I’m willing to argue reform with. Manji isn’t one of them. Might as well ask Wilders!

Zeinobia: @TravellerW @Pakinamamer @NadiaE I agree most of these ladies base their personal views on whole religion

NadiaE: @TravellerW @pakinamamer again. I dont know the woman. But I can understand where women like her come from

pakinamamer: @Zeinobia @NadiaE @Zeinobia I can see where @TravellerW comes from. tbh, West glorifies Muslim female (unveiled) whiners a bit too much…

TravellerW: @NadiaE @pakinamamer Then it’s her dad who needs to be reformed, not my faith. I reject her primary premise.

Zeinobia: @NadiaE @pakinamamer She is a well known lesbian so her views so called “moderate” are like what you see

NadiaE: @Zeinobia @TravellerW @Pakinamamer I’ve always been against generalising our views of any religion or culture based on personal experience

pakinamamer: @Zeinobia @TravellerW @NadiaE that said, I agree with her (and w Nadia) on the urgent need for reform within Islam.

NadiaE: @Zeinobia @TravellerW @Pakinamamer still its important 2 give weight 2 personal experience: it represents partof thepicture if not the whole

pakinamamer: @Zeinobia @NadiaE @TravellerW I’m still starting to read hr book But the fact that her argument/method is wrong, doesn’t mean her premise is

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @TravellerW @Zeinobia I agree personal pains and experiences reflect existent, sometimes widespread, problems.

TravellerW: @nadiae @pakinamamer @zeinobia Hey, I’m sorry her father was a jerk, I truly am. But don’t blame it on my religion!

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW oh yes. the “west” do glorify them. I’m not talking “the west” now though. We’re all egyptians talking

pakinamamer: @TravellerW @Zeinobia @NadiaE But then again, how you conceptualize these experiences is what makes all the difference.

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW and im pretty sure we’re all aware of the issues and the need for change

TravellerW: @pakinamamer @zeinobia @nadiae do check the book. the english version’s for sale, the arabic is free on pdf

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW 1 point i want to emphasize is many muslim women raised abroad have faced REAL problems with families

Zeinobia: @pakinamamer @NadiaE @TravellerW we need reform and better understanding for the religion

TravellerW: @pakinamamer @nadiae @zeinobia Mashy, but if we allow her to generalize from her dad to all muslim men, then we’re doing Rumsfeld’s bid!

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW and families have always defended themselves saying theyr protecting their daughters in name of islam

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @TravellerW @Zeinobia right But her reax to being glorified as such and used as a tool against Islam affects reception of hr views

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW short story: there’s a lot of CRAP happening and we need to understand where these women r coming from

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @Zeinobia @TravellerW I understand that. we do face similar problems too It’s how we react to it that matters, that’s all I’m saying

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @Zeinobia @TravellerW agree. I don’t like shunning ideas or ppl’s experiences. I’m all for reading her books and even debating w her

NadiaE: @pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW anything ive said is in the abstract. I might be as angry as u if i read the book

pakinamamer: @NadiaE @Zeinobia @TravellerW I’m just not sure if on her side she’s contributing to a healthy discourse or just rubbishing Islam. Different

NadiaE: pakinamamer @Zeinobia @TravellerW you could be very right. Contributing to the discourse rather than rubbishing is important

TravellerW: @NadiaE I respect the female-muslim-abroad exp.I dont like randm ppl extrapolating 2 demonize. I leave that 2 FoxNews @zeinobia @pakinamamer

TravellerW: @nadiae @zeinobia @pakinamamer Hey, I’m an expat brat myself. But muslim-in-europe thinkers, men and women, I have met, and she’s not one

NadiaE: @TravellerW @zeinobia @pakinamamer she very well might not be. Only just heard her name now

Microblogging through Twitter and Facebook have become such interesting ways of communicating. My friends and I discuss many sensitive issues through these means. And here I share with you a couple of those discussions. My only point is to provoke my own and your thinking. I might be very wrong in some of my statements. So might my friends. But I believe one can only reach truth by questioning and questioning and…further questioning.