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A social media rant!

Instead of being a beacon of liberty, education and culture; social media networks are being used to spread hate and religious intolerance

Faisal J. Abbas

Published: Updated:

Sometimes I really wonder if social media is a blessing or a curse; but most of the time I accept the reality that it is both at the same time.

I have been on Facebook and Twitter for a few years now and I have to admit that I have seen enough of the good, the bad and the ugly to be able to vent a column about it.

First, to all those “foodies” who insist on posting pictures of each and every meal they have; I hope they realize that having three meals a day is not really an achievement worth noting, since this is the norm for many other humans (well, unless you living somewhere struck by famine; but if this is the case, then I doubt your priority would be to check Facebook!).

Seriously, do these people really think there is someone out there who cares just how much meat their burger is packed with, or how much their lobster weighs?

Then, you have those who are obsessed with posting “selfies;” do these people not realize how sad it to be taking a picture of yourself, by yourself, for yourself? (Trivia: “selfie” is now a real word and is listed in Oxford dictionary)

We all know, of course, that the “selfie” trend is a natural byproduct of the fact that every smartphone is equipped with a high resolution camera with the ability to share instantly and that social media effectively allows any Tom, Dick or Harry to become a celebrity; but whatever happened to pictures that included others in them?

Do we even remember the term “Kodak moments?” You know, a picture you take on a special occasion, like a holiday, your kid’s birthday, graduation, where all those involved get together for the shot?

Anyhow, I can live with “selfies”… what I really don’t get is everyone’s obsession with taking them while doing the “duck face!” Seriously… OMG, LOL!

Fake feminists and male gigolos

Then you have those extremely powerful statements mentioned in people’s bios or profiles which are meant to cause shock and awe.

Well… excuse me, Mrs. “I’m a feisty feminist battling to free Arab women from their cultural prison,” but do you even know anything about women rights? And in the off-chance that you really want to fight for this noble cause (rather than pretending that you are because you think it makes you seem sophisticated); then why don’t you live a life where you can lead by example?

That’s right! You can’t tweet about how flabbergasted you are because many men don’t respect women, but then post a wish-list of gifts that you want your male social admirers to buy you for your birthday.

Similarly, you can’t claim to be an independent woman if you are posting pictures and bragging about your “new baby” (the new sports car daddy just bought you, despite you having a job and it being 2 years since you declared that you want to “make it on your own!”).

At the other end of the spectrum, you have those pathetic “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo” types: Men who are obsessed with showing off just how much “in demand” they are. I kid you not, but I actually know some men who created fake female accounts so that they can post public messages of admiration to themselves through them.

These are the same people who would share a picture of their bill at a restaurant or a club to show-off how much they spend (mind you, “their” bill might not actually be theirs!)

Also guys, if a girl dumps you or breaks up with you for any reason, PLEASE don’t seek online sympathy from others by moaning about how unfair life is. Trust me, you will neither get her back nor get back at her this way (and if she does see your tweet, it will just probably confirm that you are a loser and that her decision to leave you was a right one!)

Extremists and conspiracy theorists

Of course, being involved in social media in the Arab World doesn’t come without its unique set of issues as well.

Unfortunately, the social-sphere is plagued with a large number of religious extremists and conspiracy theorists (and you can imagine what a nightmare it is when the person is both at the same time!).

As such, you often get a lot of hate posts that pollute your timeline. For example, I once posted what I foolishly regarded as an innocent Arabic tweet mourning Neil Armstrong and I simply couldn’t believe the number of outrageous replies that I got. (From doubting that the late astronaut actually landed on the moon to accusations of being an American stooge to religious advice that as Armstrong wasn’t Muslim, I can’t mourn him or wish him mercy in the afterlife).

Instead of being a beacon of liberty, education and culture, social media networks are being used to spread hate, religious intolerance and to defame innocent people

Faisal J. Abbas

Of course, most of the issues I describe here, albeit annoying for me at least, are minor compared to the really scare things you find if you mine social media in the Arab World.

Sadly, instead of being a beacon of liberty, education and culture; social media networks are being used to spread hate, religious intolerance and to defame innocent people whose only crime is having different views or leading different lifestyles.

This is why - and on behalf of the real feminists and all reasonable people out there - I was happy to hear the recent news that a Saudi judge sentenced a Twitter user to be publically lashed and jailed after publically defaming a Kuwaiti singer names Shams.

The same should I apply – I think – to those who defamed the Saudi female Olympic athletes or female members of the Saudi Shura council who were called “prostitutes” and the “filth of society” by fundamentalists who opposed last year’s Royal Decree which allowed women for the first time to enter Saudi Arabia’s consultative parliament.

As a journalist, I am all for free speech, but people who lie and defame others maliciously for personal vendettas, ideological reasons or any other reason can’t go unpunished as they are the real “filth of society.” (But hey, if we are going to punish them, then I suggest something a bit more 21st century such as imprisonment and fines, much less medieval than lashing!)

Okay, I know my columns are usually quite different to this one, but as mentioned, this is a social media rant and I am… #JustSaying!

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Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist who is working on an upcoming book on Arab Media. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.