Sometimes I wish I could pull my eyeballs away from my computer screen and from all those social networking websites. I can't. Feeling attached to them has made me accustomed to speaking the language of the online world and forget the real spoken word. I don't tweet much. Still, messages of congratulations, birthday wishes, engagements and whatnot are more often plastered across websites like Twitter and Facebook than given in person for many of us.
In the past four years Ramadan has lost a bit of its flavour as it no longer brings family together at the table in my house. Qatayef, a sweet crepe filled with cheese or nuts served during Ramadan, no longer tastes the same to me. We no longer sit on the floor and share daily experiences. We're a bunch of individuals living in a hotel. Why? Because each one of us is sitting at a corner tapping on our computer.
There has been a noticeable decline in the number of people who go and knock on someone else's door to give a simple greeting, especially in Ramadan. Neighbours used to come just an hour before iftar to offer us home-cooked meals. Now even that number has reduced like an ink running out in a pen. Both the holy book of Islam, the Quran, and the narrations of the Prophet Mohammed educate us about strengthening our family ties, yet with the pace of the changes around us we often forget the importance of saying a simple "Asalaam Alaikum" ("Peace be upon you"). Getting more involved with technology has somehow affected the way I stay in touch with the people I love.
Most of us have become dependent on sharing our highs and lows using the online world by blogging, instant messaging, tweeting or Facebooking. I feel that using this contact system somehow lacks the sincerity in messages that can come across in person because it's deficient in context. It just becomes a written word. I am at fault here too. I have become very reliable on the social media that is bombarding our nation. Knowing that I can send a message on Facebook saying "Ramadan Kareem" seems a lot easier than making a phone call or getting out of the house to do so.
The day before Ramadan started, my Dad handed me his telephone to speak to an extended relative. I giggled out of nervousness - I don't giggle much - because I did not know what to say other than: "Hello, how are you?" I vividly recall how a few years ago I would run to the phone to be the first one who makes "the" phone call to my friends and spend hours talking and my Mum would ask me to hang up. That hasn't happened in a while.
Although Ramadan is all about forgiveness and creating stronger ties with family, friends and neighbours, I feel that social media is ruling our lives more and more as the days pass and that has caused more separation among people. We all need to get up and be more personal the next time we communicate. Eid will be here in a couple of weeks, so instead of broadcasting our messages through social networks, let us at least pick up a phone and say "Asalaam Alaikum" and "Eidkum Mubarak", if not visit our families and friends to begin with.