The Mindset

The Big Sister’s Advice: On Navigating the Social Media Minefield

Dear sister, I see you. Social Media is not, I’m beginning to doubt it’ll ever be, my natural habitat. Humans – at least this human – are not meant to have this type of unchecked access and interaction to this many other humans. It tires and overwhelms me and doesn’t do much for my opinion of our race.

When I came on, I couldn’t understand how some people, especially those who run accounts with significant following never seemed to commit to anything except their own brands and self-promotion. And a lot of other people have been calling such out recently. I also assumed it was self-serving cowardice, arrogance or prejudice that kept people who had a lot to lose from committing or even engaging when it came to anything remotely controversial on social media. I’m not saying these reasons cannot be part of it, but after reading many people – specifically Muslim women – and the literary gymnastics they engage in, struggling to make a valid point while attempting to deflect any onslaught from being unleashed unto them, I’m a lot more empathetic. If for no other reason than the fact that anyone who has to pepper a righteously indignant post with as many disclaimers as I have seen recently (I am not a …, but…) deserves a break.

Of course, we all like to think that it is brave to take up causes that we’re passionate about, sometimes knowing it would ruffle some feathers. And maybe it is, a little. I have lost followers since I became more intentionally unapologetic about the things I post. I have had Muslims warning other Muslims to stay away from me, my work and my ‘ideologies’ – please do not ask me to explain, I am just as baffled.

But, in the scheme of social media life, I am not even a blip on the radar – just a writer who ‘writes the stories I want to read – meaningful stories of living our lives the best way we know. I do not post consistently, do not engage a whole lot and cannot say I particularly care about having a huge following (read the first two sentences again). Even in my choice of genre, Contemporary Islamic Fiction, my tribe was always going to be a minority group of a minor minority – and I’m fine with that!

“I have lost followers since I became more intentionally unapologetic about the things I post. I have had Muslims warning other Muslims to stay away from me, my work and my ‘ideologies’ – please do not ask me to explain, I am just as baffled.”

– Muti’ah Badruddeen

As for the amazing women who already had to overcome innumerable barriers, just to be in the public space – either running a business or as a creative, even as a human, I realise that sometimes, non-engagement is the most expedient course of action. For many, it has been years of tears and sweat to get to this place – to attain heights we never dared dream of a few years ago. And some are still sweating, trying to build something that, unfortunately, sometimes depends on popular opinion. And the truth is, it is so much easier to risk censure when you don’t have much to lose. With a few exceptions, taking on controversial causes on social media is almost exclusively in the peruse of relatively obscure accounts, or those ‘influencers’ whose entire platform is built upon such causes, in the first instance; the people who are either already from the majority or are the token minority whose appeal are enhanced by such takes and causes.

For some literary acrobatics of my own, I am not supporting or denouncing anyone here, nor pronouncing judgement on how a person chooses to use their platform. I am simply acknowledging that sometimes, people are not in a place where they can afford to weather the type of pillory that a toxic space like social media can be – especially for Muslim women. What I am saying, specifically to my sisters, is: I see you! I read your convictions, no matter how barely formed, in your carefully worded disclaimers. I’ve been there and I hold space for you, here.

I hope the day will come when you will be free to hold your head up and claim what you believe or support without fear of being “dragged”. I pray for the day when being a Muslim woman – especially being visibly so – is not seen as an open invitation for others to have an opinion on how we choose to live our lives. Until that time, and unless you choose otherwise, I continue to claim you as a sister.

Mutiah Badruddeen

Muti'ah Badruddeen is a Nigerian physician and reproductive and mental health advocate, who practices in Saudi Arabia. She is a homeschooling mum of three children and author of three books. Her latest book, Rekiya and Z, was lauded as "gripping, all-encompassing, and poignant" on Amaliah Bookshelf. 'Rekiya and Z' is available on all major online platforms. A free chapter can be downloaded here.

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