Social media and envy: it’s a tricky thing

I don’t know about you but I can be very silly. Sometimes, I find myself comparing my life with others’. I ask questions like “Why does he have more talents than me? Why did she get that promotion and I didn’t? Why do they get to travel the world while I am stuck here? Why is she always so happy and I’m not?”

Do you do that too?

We are the social media generation. It’s almost impossible to find anyone without a Facebook, Skype, Twitter or Instagram account. Let me make myself clear. I do not hate social media. How can I? With its existence, I am able to communicate with my Opah who lives in Kuala Lumpur at the touch of a button. I get to read articles about brilliant, compassionate people who inspire me. I am able to feed my brain with infographics on creative projects that are revolutionary, Youtube videos by charismatic asatizahs, beautiful Quranic recitations and thought-provoking TED talks. I can stay updated about the happenings in Singapore and around the world. In fact, through photos that my friends uploaded, I found out about the riot at Little India in 2013 almost immediately, even before the various news outlets caught wind of what was happening.

However, I also acknowledge that social media is a double-edged sword. With Instagram for example, we see perfectly-filtered, pristine versions of everyone’s lives. In the past, we could only compare ourselves with those around us or the people we read and hear about through traditional media. Now, social media lets us measure ourselves against manicured lives of millions of people globally. I would like to think that when we see these postings, we feel envy that is closer to admiration and not hasad, that is wishing that a blessing that Allah has bestowed upon the envied person be taken away. We gawk at Kate Middleton’s impeccable dress sense while she effortlessly breezes through life as the Duchess of Cambridge. We sigh when we see our friends posting pictures of their legs with an infinity pool in Bali as the background, in between slogging away at work. We admire couples with cutesy photos who manage to even make their fights sound adorable.

It’s time for us to stop. Here are 3 reasons why.

First, we really don’t know what these people are going through. Let’s be honest. What’s on social media is not real. We just see what others want us to see. We don’t know their difficulties. We don’t know their pain. We don’t know how life has dealt them blows in other aspects. We don’t know what awful, life-changing experiences they have silently excluded from their postings. We can’t compare apples to oranges! So why should we compare our lives with the polished ones that have been created by others?

Second, we should prevent ourselves from falling into the trap of valuing the wrong things. Prophet SAW said, “There is no envy except in two: a person whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it in the right way, and a person whom Allah has given wisdom (i.e. religious knowledge) and he gives his decisions accordingly and teaches it to others.” These are the only 2 exceptions we are given. Based on these examples, we can see that the people we can admire are those who give and strive in the cause of Allah. They are the ones who can inspire us to be better people. Instead, we sometimes find ourselves envying others for their holidays, houses, jobs, children and even their latest Chicken scarf. This is a complete waste of precious time and energy! We are unconsciously expending time and energy that could have been used for self-improvement and more meaningful thoughts and activities.

Last but not least, be sure that Allah is fair and Allah is all-knowing. We don’t have to despair about his ability to be just. One of the biggest reasons why we envy the life of other’s is because we fail to see the blessings that have been and are being bestowed upon us. We forget our talents. We forget our gifts. We forget how unique and amazing we really are. How about we start counting our blessings?

“And if you were to count Allah’s favors, you would not be able to number them; most surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” [Sūrah al-Nahl: 18]

Written by Alia Abdullah

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Alia Abdullah graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from Singapore Management University. She writes at The most popular section of the blog is ‘Ordinarily Extraordinary’ where she interviews seemingly ordinary people who are extraordinary in their own special way. Through her blog, she aims to inspire others to dream, to learn and to take action.