Aside from the business model aspect of the addictive and manipulative nature of both mainstream and social media, another factor which fosters the addictive and manipulative nature of both mainstream and social media is that information and the spread of information amounts to gossip more than anything else. And in turn, gossip is addictive and manipulative in nature. On one hand, there is regular people gossip. But on the other hand, there is gossip on an international level that is cultivated and fashioned in a sophisticated form and is then presented as news on mainstream and social media platforms. Thus, there is regular people gossip and information spreading on one hand, and then there is gossip and information spreading on an international and sophisticated level.
As a result, orthodox groups from virtually all religious traditions either limit or prohibit cell phones and television in their respective households because gossip is forbidden in virtually all religious traditions. The Islamic tradition states that the consumption of gossip equates to eating the flesh of one’s brother. There are also sayings in religious traditions which equate the television to a window for the devil to enter into a person’s home. Thus, when virtually all Americans agree that there is a mental health epidemic that is gripping American society, one must also assess the degree of religiosity – or the lack thereof – at any given moment in society.
Moreover, real knowledge and truth have a feel-good and soothing effect which gossip and misinformation lacks. Whereas real knowledge and truth have a feel-good and soothing effect, gossip and misinformation through mainstream channels and social media foster anxiety and mental health epidemics.
As I have mentioned in a previous blog post, the two issues in this day and age which are subject to the most distortion and misinformation are COVID and Islam. There is the story of Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist who was held under Taliban captivity in 2001. Ridley later converted to Islam after the Taliban released her, and in an interview with the international media, Ridley explained that the main reason why she converted to Islam was the gentle and humane manner in which she was treated by her Taliban captors. While under Taliban captivity, Ridley became curious about Islam as a result of the behavior of her captors.
Thus, each Muslim is considered to be an ambassador of their religion, regardless of whether or not a Muslim is aware of their role in the world. Non-Muslims will most likely assess Islam based on the behavior and character of the Muslims which they encounter in their lives, as was the case with Ridley in 2001 while she was under Taliban captivity. In turn, Muslims cannot be generalized based on the actions and words of particular individuals. What the mainstream media in the United States managed to achieve in the 21st century – while being directed by the American state – was the distortion and obfuscation of Islam through both generalization and stereotyping. Real knowledge and truth about Islam and Muslims have recently begun to spread in the United States through non-mainstream channels. As a result, the correction of generalizations and stereotypes about Islam will take time to correct, but it is a process which has assumed a sure and steady course nonetheless.