We are social beings and need company, affirmation, and friendship. Traditionally we sought that in face-to-face interactions, the most remote form of it was the penfriend. Someone we had never met but who we wrote letters to. We protected our identity and personal information and guarded it jealously and would go ballistic if even our parents, closest relatives or friends opened any letter of ours or read our diary without our permission. Then came social media and opened the doors for us to seek affiliation and affirmation without any boundaries or rules and without the tools to even assess its reality. Suddenly from a few real friends who we knew, we ended up with tens and hundreds of virtual ‘friends’ and ‘followers’. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram and everything else in between encouraged us to share the most mundane information about ourselves and suddenly made it the means to become ‘popular’. I am putting these words like ‘friends’, ‘followers’, ‘popular’ in quotes to underline the fact that none of that is real. However, human nature is such that it doesn’t analyze or deny pleasant experiences. And so, if we have 2000 virtual friends on FB or 3000 followers on Twitter, who are we to deny that or to check it against real evidence? We are happy to stay with that and give in to the drive to increase our ‘following’. This also means that we will do whatever we need to, to ensure that we don’t lose any friends or followers. Remember that all this happens very unobtrusively and quietly and our behavior changes without our being aware of it. Rapidly we start getting our own sense of identity hooked to this and start to look forward to seeing what our ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ think of us.

So, where we used to be upset if someone pried into our private lives, now we voluntarily put it out there and get upset if nobody comments on it (thumbs-up, hearts, likes) immediately. We keep checking after every post to see if it is getting attention. How often do we check? How about every three seconds? If you don’t believe me or the statistics which I am quoting here, just time yourself to see how long it is before you look at your phone, even if it is just lying there on your desk, without the notification tone sounding. We post a picture of our dinner in a restaurant on Instagram, Kheema dosa, which should be sacrilege as it combines that which is vegetarian with that which was. And check to see who liked that picture. It doesn’t matter whether we even know those people. All we are looking for is the ‘like’ symbol. We conveniently ignore the fact that those who post ‘likes’ or whatever passes for it, are exactly as interested in our post as we would be in their similar post i.e. totally uninterested; but would still hit the ‘like’ button because they want us to hit the ‘like’ button for their posts. That is what Dopamine addiction is all about. Instant pleasant reactions which create a need for more and more of the same and create withdrawal symptoms (which can be severe) when we don’t get that ‘positive’ stroke. Even without this, the need for strokes creates huge distraction of focus and a fall in productivity and quality of life. Needless to say, while we are engaged with these apps, whether that is on the phone or any other device, we can’t do anything worthwhile and this seriously impacts life-goal achievement.

Dopamine is a drug which is created in the body, like cancer. But just because it is created in your body, it doesn’t mean it won’t kill you. It will unless you treat it. Also, like cancer. Imagine the effect of Dopamine addiction on children. Yes, children. Your children, thanks to you. Yes, you. Parents who are too lazy to parent and leave parenting to the tablet or the phone. You are the cause of your child’s addiction and the effect of the make-believe world that you opened for your child which will have long-term negative consequences on his attention span, perseverance, social skills, resilience in the face of hardship, ability to reflect and conceptualize life’s lessons and simply ability to grow into a confident, ethical, compassionate, well-adjusted, and courageous adult. Dopamine addiction can lead to maladjusted individuals who have major problems forming real relationships, dealing with disagreement, marriage and in increasingly frequent cases, suicide. It is as serious as that.

That’s when came in those who found a way to exploit Dopamine addiction to their advantage by creating algorithms to identify what we prefer and are attracted towards and used that to create the dream of the advertiser – the supremely targeted advertisement that can almost guarantee purchase. This metamorphosed into mind-steering and instigating action; buying behavior to begin with and then more dangerous possibilities like manipulating public opinion and elections. WhatsApp is another nail in that coffin which when they begin sharing our data with FB which owns it, will help FB to further fine-tune their strategy of mind steering. The tragedy is that there is nothing that WhatsApp or FB or Instagram or anyone is taking from us without our consent. That is like taking money from a heroin addict. He will hunt you down to pay you because he needs his fix. We run behind them because we need our fix.

My principle in this is very simple. I say, “I may not be able to stop it, but I am not going to help it to happen.” FB and its like may want to control the world and may even succeed (remember Cambridge Analytica https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/04/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-scandal-fallout.html) but that is not going to happen with my help. It is your call what you want to do.

Please see the excellent Netflix documentary: The Social Dilemma https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11464826/ and don’t say, “This can’t happen to me or my kids.” If you said that, it means that you are already addicted. Every addict denies his addiction. Everyone it happens to, says the same thing and that is exactly the reason it happens. Those who accept that it can happen, take precautions and get out while they can and save themselves. This documentary was made by the very people who created this monster. Listen to them, because there’s nobody who knows it better. Your call.

I have heard the following statements (excuses) from people when I told them that I am planning to dump WhatsApp.

  1. ‘They’ (who is they?) already know everything. What’s the point of changing now?
    1. By ‘they’ if you mean WhatsApp or FB or any social media app, that statement is simply not true. They know only as much as you told them. Keep telling them and they will know more and more. Stop telling them and they can’t know anything more. Your call.
  2. I have nothing to hide, so what do I care who knows anything?
    1. That’s like saying, ‘I have nothing to hide, so I am going to walk around naked.’ Yes, it IS as stupid as that. Privacy is a human right. It is the basis of dignity. We have nothing negative to hide but that doesn’t mean that strangers must have access to our personal data. Once again, your call.
  3. What’s the use of changing to Signal or something else? They will also become like FB and WhatsApp one day.
    1. If they do, then deal with it when and if it happens. Otherwise, it is like saying, ‘What is the good of wearing a mask to prevent being infected with Covid? One day we all must die anyway. Makes no sense, right? Neither does this if you think about it. Your call.
  4. If FBI (Police) wants to know about me, they can always find out.
    1. Hello!! Wake up. We are not talking about the FBI; we are talking about FB. Maybe there is a difference? We’re not talking about a criminal investigation. We know you committed no crime. We are talking about volunteering information about yourself to help FB et al to do all that I mentioned earlier, better, and more powerfully.

There is a reluctance to change in many people. I say to them, recognize it for what it is; comfort with status quo (like a woman with an abusive husband who will complain but won’t leave him because she fears the unknown) and FOMO (millennials don’t need this explained – Fear of Missing Out). FOMO is real and is the hook for Dopamine addiction. I remind myself and you that there was a time when we had BBM (Bahut Badi Museebat) on Blackberry. We thought that life was not possible without it. Where is it today? So also WhatsApp or whatever else. Treat a tool like a tool and treat your spouse like a spouse. Not vice versa. What I discovered to my great delight, incidentally, is that those who I care about and who care about me, have downloaded Signal and we are in touch as always. Others? Well, it’s a free country after all and everyone is welcome to make his/her own decision.

I was born and spent my entire childhood and youth in a world that had no social media. We wrote with pen on paper and licked the back of the stamp and stuck it on the envelope and trusted the Postal Service to deliver our letters. We loved receiving letters, read them with great interest, reading between lines to see life through the eyes of our friends. Then we replied. I used to buy handmade paper from Chimanlal’s in Mumbai (it was Bombay in those days) and wrote on it with a broad-nibbed Parker pen with Royal Blue, Quink ink. When I wrote to anyone abroad, I used very fine tracing paper and wrote with a pen with a needle pointed nib, very close together but very clearly. The idea was to get the maximum message keeping the whole letter as light as possible because Air Mail had to be paid for by weight.

As for the phone, for a long time our house was the only one in the whole colony where we lived, which had a phone because my father was a doctor. This was a wired landline (there was no other kind of phone) which was fixed to the wall and you had to pick up the receiver and tell the operator which number to dial. The operator was a very nice man, a friend of my father’s but with ideas of his own about what young boys ought to be doing at that time. So, when I asked him to dial a number he would ask me, “Have you finished your homework? Why do you need to talk to your friend at this time? This is dinner time, maybe they are eating dinner,” and other such things. I had to remain polite, salvage my dignity and keep persisting until he dialed my number. I was always suspicious that perhaps he would listen in to the conversation, but never confirmed it. What I did was to ensure that my conversation was eavesdroppable. As they say, ‘Discretion is the better part of valor.’

The long and short of this is that I can assure you that it is possible to go back to a world of wired landlines and the Post Office as your friend in need. I’ve been there, done that. And it was very pleasant and rewarding. Believe me, the pleasure of receiving a ‘real’ letter cannot be matched by any email, much less a ridiculous, misspelt WhatsApp message with OMG, LoL and smileys passing for conversation. Having said that, I love Smileys.

Also we have the telephone in its normal and other forms, like Skype, Duo, Facetime, etc where we can actually have conversations instead of what we had become used to on WhatsApp. And if you are looking for free internet based calling, then you can do it on both Signal and Telegram.

Finally, let me reiterate; this is not about them. It is about us. What do we want to do with our lives? Allow others to use us as commodities for their personal benefit? Or take charge of our lives and live in a way that is positive, dignified, and powerful. Have real friends, make real contributions knowing that this takes time and persistence and leave behind a legacy.

For those who want to say at the end of all this, “What difference does my leaving this space make? After all I am only one person.” I say to you, “Even if you can’t stop them, don’t join them. For in the end, it is not about them. It is about you. It is about us.”

I made my choice. I have explained to you why. Now it is up to you.

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roshni subbaiah

Wow Yawar….what to say…yes you are right the good old days were great so glad to be part of that lovely place…..
all the feelings and words expressed are so true… and I can relate to it…..hope more people read this post…thanks for writing this.

ABDULLAH SUJEE

I love this article and it is so apt. I will definitely use it when school re-opens for discussion purposes with the staff and pupils. What interests me in the article is the fact that we, as social creatures, have become more and more superficial therefore, we make the comments cited above by our esteemed writer, Mirza Yawar Baig. You have made the above point more real for me and the article has also made me realise just how our lives are an interest for great plans, huge corporates and law makers too but, we realise it not. So if… Read more »

Omair

Absolutely relevant and well written piece! FOMO is real, and overcoming it is essential

Adnan Shaikh

Went off FB and Insta for about 3-4 months and believe me nothing changed in my life other than being more productive. I was fed up of the urge to check my phone every second to see what I might have missed and more often than not end up scrolling up and down the same content to find some relevance.

All good tools to share but sit back and think who are you sharing with?

How glad would my mum be to receive a hand written letter from me, in Urdu, rather than a message on WhatsApp. Should do that.

I can relate many of things here to my personal experience or some one close are going thru. My father in law used to say my wife, please don’t call me write to me because every time I read I get more of it. I am going to share this article with friends and family. More important think about restricting myself!

Parsapu Suresh Kumar

“it is not about them. It is about you. It is about us.” Dear Yawar, you made it very clear in few words. I like your answers to the ‘four or few excuses’. Thank you very much.

A very compelling, convincing advice reinforced with Nostalgia to value our privacy and overcome our indifference regarding this very sensitive and important aspect of our lives. To put it simply It’s “TIME UP FOR WHATS APP.”

Alastair Craig

We both left Face Book several years ago…too time consuming of mostly irrelevant chit chat! If you need to stay in touch with friends, there is always an email, or even and better still, a letter.

Amir Khan

A remarkably well written admonishment. Social media is indeed a shortcut to easy self gratification. The problem really is that using social media has zero marginal cost. Unlike the old landline or the airmail letters. The former allowed three minutes and the latter two pages. Else, havent we always liked to talk about ourselves and gossip about our neighbors?

Sister S.A

I can relate to this because of my job. I work at an elementary school and whenever I ask a parent “what does your child like to do at home” almost 95% of the parents say their children spend time on their phones. This is a great article I will definitely share it with parents.

Omar

Very good read. These apps present good business opportunity but I agree with keeping your personal life off of them.

Shahzad Mirza

Absolutely true. Well written. It’s an eye opener. The addiction is deep and needs a radical rehab process.

Irfan Ahmed

Yawar bhai, very good article. Thank god I am so backward that I still don’t know how fb works. I have never had an account. I am on watsapp mainly to be connected with business affairs and family and friends. The minute I learn to manage these without watsapp I would love to exit. If you have an idea please share.

Hamza

If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.
Alhumdulilah I deactivated Facebook & Instagram 4 years ago because I realized I was addicted to it. It was a waste of time, over sharing for no reason and people will follow you on these platforms but won’t have a real conversation with you face to face. May Allah make it easy for us and everyone to get rid of all such addictions.

Gihad Awkal

Craigslist used to be a wonderful resource for used goods, housing, services and many more. Facebook marketplace has taken a strong hold of this and that is what I use it for

Facebook stock should do well…

Abdul Azeem Chaudhry

Social media is a disease…negatively affects people, but it’s only realized when it’s too late.

Munir Zaitoun

Positive reinforcement plays a critical role in our relationship with our phones, or what I like to call, digital heroin. As you mentioned, getting likes and what we perceive as ‘attention’ serves as a primary reinforcer for such behavior due to the craving of feeling happy. It is undeniably fake happiness with an underlying chemical basis, dopamine. I cannot relate more to what you mentioned, because this is the sad truth of our society. May Allah protect us from such a pandemic, truly…

Ammaar Mahajir

This piece is informative as well as thought-provoking. Found myself going off into a tangential reverie after every few sentences. The idea that your privacy is being breached with impunity unbeknownst to you is disturbing and needs to be checked. Sadly all laws passed so far in connection with right to privacy all over the world are more or less aesthetic rather than effective. To misquote Shakespeare, they’re “more honoured in the breach than in the enforcement.” The distinction between consent and informed consent being blurred, deliberately one sometimes feels, is therefore one of the most necessary topics to be… Read more »

Maher

I like the point of view of this article. I know we will eventually end up without technologies. Not sure if you or I would be alive to witness it but it is inevitable. For now we can use these social media platforms for our benefit while at the same time maintain a “real” life. I’ll leave the rest of my discussion for when we catch up face-to-face insha’Allah…

Mohammed Hamza

The scourge of today’s world. Dopamine addiction. We are at the mercy of these big tech giants through social media and our phones. I personally have had instances where I have deleted Instagram and FB, only to join back due to FOMO and I can definitely make out a difference in my mood, productivity and motivation. This article from Yawar Uncle came to me at a perfect time. A wise man once said “ you will not be asked what happened on the day of reckoning. You will be asked, What did you do?” We have the answer to a… Read more »

Capt Aslam Khan

I absolutely agree with your thoughts, you have hit the bullseye. It’s a disease and need treatment as soon as possible.

Zainab

Excellent post

Sunil Abraham

Quite relevant in todays setting. Certainly there has been a paradigm shift in what we treasured as privacy to getting public about what we eat, do or where we go. Some call it evolution but those of us that have lived in the yesteryears that have enjoyed the outdoors, the wildlife and bare earth may have to start using these SM platforms with certain limitations These are not necessarily bad but overindulgence in anything has its effects. So treat it like a buffet. Pick what you want and move on rather than eating everything and feeling uncomfortable !

Zafar Firdausi

Absolutely brilliant article. I have seen argument picking up because one did not like one’s recent uploaded photo on FB. As I heard them arguing, I thought how insane have we become, forcing others to give recognition to something we don’t deserve. As you said our behaviour changes unconsciously.

Farhana

Absolutely true! Thank you for this article Yawar bhai. It came as an eye opener for me! 😰 FOMO is real and am guilty as charged. I remember how much i enjoyed writing letters to my friends, grandparents, parents (after I got married) and to my better half when I went to my maika and ofcourse receiving letters from them. The longer the better! I still have a suitcase full of letters from friends, parents and the husband. My most prized possession! Writing is definitely therapy and now research says that it can actually physically and mentally benefit people suffering… Read more »

Seemi

Enjoyed the blog. My favorite was “combines that which is vegetarian with that which was” :)))
Jokes aside, what you have pointed out is true of course and I’m sure most of us realize this. But as we are all aware addictions are difficult to get rid of and a lot of will power and self discipline is required to extricate ourselves from them.
Please continue writing about social issues and other topics as well. Your write-ups are thought provoking and could be very helpful.

Gurveen Kaur

True and to the point. We don’t need to give out more information about ourselves. Privacy is our right.

Fatima Hamza

A brilliant, well thought out article that truly hits home! My demon is convenience, ease, comfort and the fact that I am not ready for change! However, I do desire that change…it’s to make a deliberate effort to bring it into reality.. I beg Allah for that tawfeeq ! Jazaakallah khairan for painting this reality so vividly as always… here’s to moving out of my comfort zone inshaa Allah..

Ayesha Shakib

Very enlightening… Something today’s generation needs to be made aware of so they can make conscious choices.
As usual extremely well written. Takes you on a journey of social interaction and how experiences have changed!

Zaid Ahmed

So well written, I’d be surprised if people still don’t understand after reading this.

Joni

Much needed article , very insightful
Please share this article with your friends and family as everyone should read this article and reflect upon deeply

V J Rao

A very insightful blog Yawar. I have been listening to Simon Sinek on the dopamine addiction. It has overtaken everything. And people are falling prey to it and like it was said in a video that I saw rrecently, the algorithms feed on negative feeds and such feeds have greater weightage in their systems. If you go by the above chart WA is part of FB and therefore between them they have a huge chunk of data. There are whatsapp factories that manufacture and spew out all kinds of propaganda. My view is that like all “progress” has a dark… Read more »

Farid Ahmed

Very very right. Scary too

Imtiaz Baig

Dear Baig Saab,
Greetings !
Very true Wonderful days. Booking trunk calls to speak to loved ones, family and fiends.
Postcards , Inland letters to communicate.
The pleasure of receiving letters and writing or replying was an loveable act in itself.

Gone are the days and as rightly pointed out back to prehistoric days of symbols.
Thanks and regards.

Aaqib

This is an important issue which needs to be addressed especially to teenagers who are lost in this materialistic world who wish for futuristic house, expensive cars and what not. I would request the audience to also watch video called look up on “YouTube”. I hope u spend time with ur family and relatives more than ur phone and gaming stations

irshad sareshwala

Impatience Social media have reinforced our “gotta have it now” tendencies by catering to them. We like things prepackaged and bite-sized, and the internet is more than willing to accommodate. Social media platforms were among the first — and worst — offenders, actually prohibiting posts longer than X no of characters Oversimplification Because of our impatience thanks to social media, we dismiss the value of evidence in making decisions. Social sites encourage us to share opinions, not evaluate facts. We’re encouraged to have only one perspective — ours (or our group’s) — because that’s all we think we have time… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by irshad sareshwala
irshad sareshwala

Great read by the way jazakallah khair for sharing it with me

This is a must read for anyone who is overwhelmed by social media..infact most of us are. AI and their Algorithms have made it all pervasive in our lives which are very well illustrated here. Thanks Yawar Bhai for letting us know the etiquettes of Social media.

Maher Khan

Assalamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh!

I believe mine is, and in all probability will remain, the last generation to experience the crossover from old-school methods to the nu-everything-tech you have these days.

The dopamine addiction is the scariest thing, especially among young children.

Splendidly written! I think everyone in all age groups should read this with an open mind.

PS: Oh and here’s a smiley 😊

Last edited 2 months ago by Maher Khan
Edris Khamissa

Shaykh Yawar.You are on point.The negative or deleterious impact of social media cannot be quantified.Agreed,it is intrusive and all in all it feeds into our vanity.Nothing is private.We have become enslaved and addicted. Your cogent response is a reminder to all of us to either wean ourselves of social media or to use it judiciously. We are supposed to be gregarious beings…even our social skills have been stunted. Others have become key – board warriors spewing venom and vitriol with impunity. There is so much to say.Suffice it to say that if we lack discipline then we will have to… Read more »

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