Sometimes we should all just step back a little

Rym Ghazal writes about the ever-continuing creep of technology and our world of zero-privacy

This still from a video that went viral – showing a pilgrim doing tawaf (circling the Kaaba) as part of Umra in Mecca on a hands free segway – proves the point that we can’t stop technology from appearing in every aspect of our life.
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There is no denying the power of social media, but it also has its downside. It can do a lot of good, highlight issues that need support and can save lives. At the same time, there is a price to connectivity, such as the loss of privacy and how confidential information can easily be tracked down about each and every one of us.

It has reached the stage where people are finding out news about themselves or their loved ones on social media rather than via more conventional methods. One example happened this week in the UAE, when the sister of Ali Khalil Abdullah Al Hosni, the teenaged National Service recruit, said she learnt about her brother’s death on social media. Al Hosni died the day after he joined up as part of the fourth intake of military trainees.

“I didn’t know about his death, until I saw his picture on Instagram with a death announcement underneath,” Zahra Al Hosni said.

I can’t even imagine the shock of opening one’s account and finding yourself tagged in a tragic post like this.

Something similar happened to a friend of mine and instead of people calling her to check up on her, they tagged her on messages of condolence written up next to a photograph of her father. It was all meant with kindness and love, but surely it would have been better to ask if it was all right to leave comments in the first place. It seems in her case a distant relative had posted the image and then all her friends wanted to pay their respects and re-shared it on social media.

It wasn’t fine with her, however, and she deleted the post and demanded the rest be removed. Some people are very private and we should respect that.

Another example of the power of social media is a video that went viral of a pilgrim doing tawaf (circling the Kaaba) as part of Umra in Mecca on a two-wheel electric mini-scooter, sometimes described as a mini-Segway or drifting board.

Given all the laws on taking photos and videos without permission, whoever took that video would be in a heap of trouble for doing so.

We don’t know anything about the man and why he used this gadget, yet he has been slammed on social media for being shameful and un-Islamic.

With Haj just around the corner, I wouldn’t be surprised if some pilgrims do bring these devices with them to Mecca given the great amount of walking involved. It was interesting to see how heated the debate was and how it can have damaging consequences. I wonder if the man ever found out that he had become a social media star.

Well, it seems to have reached the authorities, and police in Mecca have banned the use of these gadgets.

Whatever the case, we can’t stop technology from appearing in every aspect of our lives. For instance, selfies are so popular, that there are whole forums dedicated to selfies while performing Haj or Umra.

A popular joke these days is regarding the question “what is new?” and how it has been made redundant as most of us have already seen another person’s latest news on some form of social media.

We have become so used to posting everything for the whole world to see, it is no wonder we forget to respect privacy and we forget to stop ourselves from making comment or passing judgement.

Some comments slip into the cyberbullying category without the commentator even realising, as he or she feels self-entitled and so sure of their point of view.

Sometimes we need to just step back and live outside the box, especially those we carry around with us, and not get dragged into the latest heated social media debate.

On Twitter:@Arabianmau