Sometimes I feel like I am walking on a bridge.

On one side is a garden, one of peace and contentment and tranquillity. A garden whose inhabitants shine like the moon, their eyes dancing and sparkling like distant stars, their faces radiating with purity and kindness. They stand together, rejoicing in their unity and serenity. On the other side is a second garden, but this one has neither flowing water nor lush greenery, and its dwellers are imprisoned, unable to remove the shackles that bind them. I walk towards the first garden desperately, but I realise that these same shackles somewhat envelop me too, pulling me towards themselves. I try to completely escape but I do not quite have the strength. Until I can be free I remain on this bridge, walking one way but being constantly pulled the other.

As social animals, we all seek connection in our lives, to be at one with each other in an attempt to find happiness and pleasure. In the modern age, social media has aimed to fill this human need, to enable us be connected simultaneously to hundreds of ‘friends,’ and to tell our stories to these individuals, so that we feel wanted and cared for and less alone. But it goes further than that. Social media has tapped into the truth that most of us see ourselves through the eyes of others. We have a need to be seen as kind, or trendy, or successful, even if the reality is far removed from this. We even desire that others feel envious of our apparently perfect lives. Through our social media posts and our personal photos which we proudly display online, we subtly compete with one another in showing the world our friends or our happiness or our wealth. In forging this deception, we create a restlessness within ourselves, aspiring to truly be the person that we pretend to the world we are.

For years I have been part of the Facebook ‘culture,’ and though I personally rarely post photos or thoughts online, social media had still become almost an addiction. As a teenager I was immersed in the snapshots of others’ exciting lives, making me less and less content with my own. As I grew older and matured, these feelings subsided, but still lay dormant like a latent pathogen. It was always strange to me that as human beings we are happiest when connected to others, yet it is when we are most connected that we feel most discontent and alone. Last year, during Ramadan I tried something new – abandoning social media completely for the month. Each year Ramadan is a time of spiritual upliftment, but this year I felt it even more markedly. I believe there are many reasons for this extra contentment, but one of them was certainly a direct result of not having a constant world of social buzz in the background of my life. On reflection I also realised an important truth – that all this time my link with the world was being destroyed, not enhanced, by Facebook, acting like a cage inside my soul. The only true connection is a spiritual oneness with God, for in being at one with our Creator we become automatically at one with his creation. This is why the Prophets and saints of God never feel lonely, even when the whole world is against them. However all too often it is the celebrities, the ones who are most adored by the world – the ones with the most twitter followers – who feel most alone, often resorting to drink or drugs in an attempt to drown out the loneliness that floods their hearts.

Sometimes I feel like I am walking on a bridge.

Eternal life through faith on one side, the deception and entrapment of the world on the other. Most of us stand somewhere in between, trying desperately to escape from the bitterness of loneliness.

I feel fortunate, for I know the formula to reach the side of contentment, but often stumble along the way. During last Ramadan, when I broke free from the confines of social media, I realised truly that it is through standing in prayer before our Lord that one feels most in touch with true reality, and often it is through seeking solitude that one truly feels most connected.

“Know that the life of this world is only a sport and a pastime, and an adornment, and a source of boasting among yourselves, and of rivalry in multiplying riches and children. This life is like the rain the vegetation produced whereby rejoices the tillers. Then it dries up and thou seest it turn yellow; then it becomes broken pieces of straw…” [57:21]


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