By Mohamed A. Suleiman
Saturday August 12, 2023
As with many other things in life, technological advancement is indeed a double-edged sword. Herbert Simon once said: “There are no morals about technology at all. Technology expands our ways of thinking about things, expands our ways of doing things. If we're bad people, we use technology for bad purposes and if we're good people we use it for good purposes.”
More fittingly, the Rwandan born, Bangambiki Habyarimana, is quoted as saying: “As man becomes more technologically advanced, his barbarity becomes even more lethal”.
We need not look any further to find the lethal barbarity that he is alluding to than to take a cursory glance at the tragic and senseless conflicts that continue to engulf many parts of Somalia.
I would argue that the toxic cocktail of misinformation and disinformation that we are fed through social media is partly, if not wholly, responsible for the wars and conflicts that are spiraling out of control in our homeland.
When wars and conflicts become profitable businesses, then those businesses must self-sustain, and therefore the wars and the conflicts must continue unabated.
If the consciousness of a nation dies, then the boundaries of faith and morality are transgressed, and everything becomes normalized. Some people’s disasters become other’s benefits.
Those who are profiting from the toxic social media landscape and the irresponsible misinformation and disinformation should look at themselves in the mirror and question whether they have a shred of decency left in their hearts.
Shame on the TikTokers, shame on the YouTubers, shame on the Instagramers, shame on all who are using the various social media landscapes to make a few bucks exploiting the misery of their own people. Shame on also those who are chasing notoriety and a fifteen-minute internet fame.
The words share, subscribe, click like, among others, are ceaseless in the vernacular that we ingest on a daily basis. This causes us to disseminate fake news without considering its ramifications and consequences.
Two things seem to be driving the insanity that we are witnessing in how the Somali people consume social media feeds: barbarism and illiteracy. The two are intertwined by their very nature are probably the two main considerations that need to be understood to make sense of why we seek pleasure in disseminating, watching, and listening to people bragging about maiming, mutilating, dismembering, and killing their fellow countrymen. It is common knowledge that only barbaric societies practice this kind of senseless cruelty.
Media literacy, which is critical to functioning and living in today’s world, and the digital media revolution that it spurred are key to using these technologies in a positive and beneficial way. Brutality is prone to spread like wildfire in an oral society that also suffers from a cancer called “tribalism”. We cannot deny the fact that the only thing that a Somali pledges allegiance to is his tribal group.
A fellow by the name of Alireza Salehi Nejad talks about a concept he calls metaliterary. He says: “It is an overarching comprehensive notion that provides an integrated and inclusive framework to cultivate critical thinking and proficiency in comprehending data, information, visuals and the media, particularly in technology-mediated settings through fortifying lifelong learning and attaining the objective of engendering critical engagement in individuals.”
This, in my opinion, is where we need to understand the pivotal role media literacy plays in human connections and interactions. The absence of that literacy is nothing short of barbarism in today’s postmodern world.
One might then wonder why the large diaspora communities who seem to be learned and literate are still fanning the hostilities and wars that are raging in our country.
The roots of the barbaric tendencies of this group could probably be explained by the effects of the protracted civil wars and conflicts which may have caused the Somali people to suffer from a collective posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The diasporas that are fueling and financing these conflicts are not immune to this as they arrived in North America and Europe fleeing the atrocities that were committed in the homeland in the first place.
PTSD and all other forms of ailments need the right kind of remedy. The Somali people need a collective heeling, and the source of this wellbeing is buried in the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger (SAW). Allah implores us in the 2nd verse of Surratul Al-Maidah:
“Cooperate with one another in goodness and righteousness, and do not cooperate in sin and transgression. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is severe in punishment.”
There is no better prescription for what is ailing us than the one chosen for us by Allah, the Almighty.
Finally, a food for thought for those creating, spreading, and profiting from misinformation and disinformation; the men and women who are chasing riches, fame, or notoriety by exploiting incitement, obscenities, foul and degrading language. Allah says in verse number 49 of Suratul Al-Kahf:
“And the book will be placed, and you will see the sinners fearful of its contents. And they will say, “Woe to us! What is with this book that leaves nothing, small or big, but it has enumerated it?” They will find everything they had done present. Your Lord does not wrong anyone.”
May Allah alleviate the suffering from our people and may the Lord guide us to the right path and keep us steadfast at it. Ameen.
Mohamed A. Suleiman is an educator who lives in Canada and can be reached at: [email protected]