Today a person lives two lives: their real life, and their life online. Sometimes those two lives match up; other times, one life is merely a persona for the other—and sometimes it’s hard to tell which.
Children are born now and their entire lives have been uploaded online, from the moment of their birth, to their first birthday party and beyond. Their love, happiness, sadness, excitement, all of it is shared online for the world to see.
If Maximus Decimus Meridius were alive today (and real), he’d probably say “What we post online, echoes in eternity.” Or “internet-y” if he was feeling particularly punny (I think Russel Crowe is the only actor who could pull off a line like that).
How will we be remembered in the digital world? Will we be remembered? If we were to scour the internet archive like digital archaeologists, what could we tell about the individuals who lived online in the past?
In the online world, our capacity to hate and hurt is amplified, shielded by the anonymity of computer screens and user names. Internet trolls feed off of negativity like some sort of bad-vibe succubus. Going into the comments section of a YouTube video is like wading into an Amazon river—you can’t tell if there’s piranhas beneath the surface.
Backbiting someone—a huge sin in Islam—is multiplied by the number of likes and shares and “seen by” tallies that it incurs. While backbiting in-person is usually restricted to a small group of people, backbiting online can spread to thousands of others.
The point is: it’s easy to hurt someone online. But so too is the opposite.
In Islam, the deeds that last with us are the ones that affect others. Ongoing charity, beneficial knowledge, and so forth. To thank someone, to make someone smile or reflect or be grateful, is easy online. To put a little good in the digital world just takes a few clicks, a short message, a quick share.
What you post online is, essentially, imprinted into the collective memory of the internet. It becomes an artifact for people to see. A piece of you shared with the world.
This is not my final post—God willing. I hope I live long enough to make many, many more posts. But the reality is that none of us knows what our final post will be.
When we leave this world, there’s a good chance that people will flock to our Facebook posts, our Twitter feeds, our Instagram accounts—the online relics of a person now gone from the world. And what will they see? What will your final post be? A picture of your last meal? A final piece of wisdom you’re sharing with the world? Or will it be getting the last word in to mock someone?
So make each post like it was your last.