Media is the strongest medium of image formulation. Advertising, marketing and branding are no longer restricted to television, radio and bill boards. In fact, the impact that social media has on influencing the mindset of a targeted audience is astounding. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and dozens of other social media sites where likes, ‘friending’ and sharing thoughts and views are coveted, are fast becoming one of the most effective means of getting heard.
Over the past few months, a series of tragic events have been highlighted in the media and have created many spirited debates, many of which have been prejudicially negative about the portrayal of Muslims and Islam. With such a tool as social media, today’s youth have a unique opportunity to correct some of the misconceptions that are being perpetuated in the media and to portray the true essence of Islam, the religion of peace.
Each time we go online, we are leaving a digital footprint in our wake. We can train our youngsters to be vigilant on what they post and how they do it, so as to optimise their desire to be efficiently heard. they need to protect themselves from predators that lurk online, data hackers and twisted individuals who manipulate random data into malicious and harmful content. Consequently, we can teach them how to build a positive identity online.
Here are a few suggestions on how to dissipate misconceptions and combat social evils:
It always begins somewhere and finding where it starts is what truly counts. Children need to be taught about the dangers of engaging on social media without proper supervision/guidance. Hence, we can make them aware of how to communicate effectively without compromising on values. Password protection awareness, avoiding free giveaways and responding to sudden pop ups, should be avoided to minimise risk of undue harmful exposure.
Forming groups to support the cause
Students should be asked what problems in the world they would like to solve, rather than asking what they would like to be when they grow up. After brainstorming, they can be assisted in forming a group where they can post new and innovative ideas on tackling these issues. The issue of negative imaging of Islam can begin to slowly fade in this way.
More and more young people want to be heard and blogging has taken center stage in this arena. The right to free speech is heralded and provided that the ‘free speech’ is not malicious and of a repugnant nature, children should be encouraged to write on school/class/personal blogs.
Open communication and feedback
None of the above works without proper guidance and inculcating a sense of acute awareness about how sensitive the world can be. Personal reputation and or the reputation of a said group should not be taken lightly. Making children realise that their posts can damage the credibility of their belief system is difficult to do, but a good teacher will implant this with empathy and compassion.
Support from like-minded sources
Get other schools/institutions involved in order to gain traction in dissipating stigmas. Be it liking each others’ pages, sharing ideas, commenting on each other’s sites, using the hashtag to increase response in search parameters, are all good ways to come together for a just and noble cause.
With the power to formulate a word, comes great responsibility. Let’s not take it lightly. Let’s find a way to use social media to empower our youth with wholesomeness and positivity.
By Miss Rahima Jabeen
Miss Rahima Jabeen is a primary grade school teacher who has taught in Pakistan and Dubai. She writes a personal blog and one on Young Islamic Minds. Rahima is also a makeup enthusiast who shares reviews on makeup in her blog Yet More Makeup.