Social Media, To Use or Not to Use?

Blog piece featured on Change the Script. A campaign led by The Hon Baroness Uddin.

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, nearly all of us are using at least one of these if not all and it’s safe to say that the word sharing encapsulates best what these platforms do.“Sharing is caring,” as we all know, but how much of this has been elevating the opportunities of people from minority backgrounds, in particular of Muslim women and how much of it has really been not caring at all?

I decided to explore why social media has become instrumental in putting many Muslim women on the map, working to challenge many of societies preconceived notions about them and about Islam. However, some of the darker realities of using such open and accessible platforms also became very apparent. That doesn't mean to say the downsides have been a deterrent in every case, especially when you look at those building their careers through social media, using it as a podium for their voices to be heard. I mean, even I am getting myself set up and ready to go to ensure that my writing is seen on these platforms. Sadly though, no matter the person, it seems to have a resounding impact on who and how we use them. The recent negative press surrounding Amena Khan’s L’Oréal campaign related to one of her tweets about Palestine in 2014 highlights exactly this. Suffice it to say that due diligence probably wasn't done thoroughly enough on L’Oréals part, it ended up with Amena taking most of the backlash, from both Muslims and non-Muslims. On the other hand, there are plenty of great examples of Muslim women who are going very far with the use of social media like Dina Tokio, Nabila Bee, Zukreat, Habiba Da Silva, Sabina Hannan, Huda Kattan, Nadia Hussain and those are just to name a few.

In order to make the most of these platforms, Muslim women have to create the fine balance between deflecting the negative and actively participating. 

We all have a multitude of opinions and social media allows for these to be heard. Working on the campaign Change the Script has given me the scope to understand why some Muslim women are often reluctant to use it nowadays, even if it means being silent. For most, it's largely about the current icy climate blustering in their direction. How can you blame them? When you put yourself out there, it's a given that you will be thrown some kind of abuse no matter who you are. But in their case, it's pretty extreme. The thing is, not everyone you come across in life will like you, and I think that's just the point. We spend a lot of time singling ourselves out because of the current state of affairs, and of course, it makes sense to if the whole world seems to be highlighting the fact to be a Muslim comes hand in hand with being an irate extremist. It's whats always presented on the media for the wider public to form their opinions on. 

I believe, in order to create the balance I mentioned before, there are three steps you can try to take. Accept, deflect and utilise.

1. Accepting the negative sides of social media isn't about condoning the abuse you might get, but it gets you a lot further by showcasing your identity just as any non-Muslim would, especially when you take into consideration that it will challenge the very stereotypes which created that negativity in the first place.

2. Deflecting it obviously won't make it go away, but being exposed to it when using social media shouldn't be a reason to stop you. In fact, just use it as a tool to strengthen your determination in whatever it is you are doing.  

3. Lastly, utilising the hell out of it is important whether it's to endorse and build your own career or for the bigger picture by challenging the narrative the world has on Muslim women.

It isn't for everybody, and I spend much of my time fighting against it. But, as with anything you do, its about being prepared and rolling with the punches along the way.

Calculating Risk

 Short piece submitted to Man Repeller's Writers Club

Planning seems to be at the forefront of everyone's minds at the beginning of a new year, which makes sense, no? “new year, new beginning” and all that. We spend the better part of our lives figuring out all the steps we need to take in order to achieve the ideals we have in our heads. This year I find myself wondering “what will happen if I let go of my persistent need to plan?” At least to some degree anyway. The answer to that is unknown and, as we all know, the unknown has risk written all over it. 

2017 was a year of personal development for me and one of the things I learnt was how to utilise my faith as a means of guidance when I feel most lost. Perhaps the probability of achieving my goals has a greater variation with that new outlook, but the irony is that despite lowered levels of certainty, I have never felt such clarity before. Don't get me wrong, I can be a complete control freak and always need to be five steps ahead. For example, my To Do list consists of everything and anything including shower, put clothes away, SAVE MONEY!!!, pack lip balm in bag, try sleep in rollers, pluck that one eyebrow hair and even make a to-do list. These lists I make day in and day out somehow give me a faint sense of purpose. It’s obvious that where small-scale organising is concerned, planning has to remain as it would intrinsically. But the thing is, not plucking that pesky eyebrow hair poses no risk to me (I hope) and continuing to plan these things for the day to day is normal (again, I hope). 

The plans I'm talking about belong to an entirely different scale altogether.

A friend who unwittingly asks me questions that challenge my more obstinate views (thank you, btw) got me thinking about the year ahead. What struck me most when he asked about me having any plans was that I was unusually calm when answering “no,” followed with me realising that I essentially have none set in stone. Predicting outcomes for things I want in life often leave me with sky-high levels of internalised anxiety. As someone who requires a plan for everything, I hate to admit that it hasn’t always helped to try and mould those outcomes and it’s safe to say that they certainly haven't looked the way I had idealised. 

With all that in mind, what risk do I hope to take this year? Well, I hope to replace planning the things I cant control with patience, leaving outcomes to be determined as the dice gets rolled. Although a big part of me is itching at the thought of not being in control, an even bigger part of me knows that diving straight into the unknown means 2018 might just surprise me.