Friday, November 22, 2013

Our Obsession With Video Virality

Someone asked me, "What are the factors that make a viral video?"

Although I understand the benefits of a viral video, I think we should shift the question to something more meaningful. One shouldn't focus on video virality for the same reason one shouldn't focus on the results of an exam.

Yes, the results have their importance but in the long term (so long term, we have to think until the Afterlife), results don't matter as much as the sincere effort one puts in the process.

The Power of Sincerity

Sincerity is a powerful thing and we don't necessarily see it readily in our physically-inclined perceptions. Sincerity is spiritual, not physical. But the effects of sincerity can manifest itself within our lifetime in the physical world.

For example, I know an honest small businessman who is in business for about 20 years or so. In his experience, he has seen people making too much profit from mediocre, low-end products (e.g. selling a RM5 item for RM50).

Although they bank in a lot of money, but the money doesn't last. Pretty soon, it goes away and they wonder where all the money went. Lots of money, but not a lot of life satisfaction.

He, on the other hand, commits to a reasonable profit margin – one that doesn't oppress the buyer. He knows full well that he can sell his products for a much higher price, but his main concern is not in the amount of money he receives but in the amount of blessing the money contains.

Thank God, even with that, he is able to buy a house and sustain his family – a wife and three daughters.

Sincerity is powerful as it penetrates the hard, outer shell and goes straight to the heart. From sincerity, the blessings of the All-Merciful descents. Without God's blessings, nothing is of value or meaning – no matter how physically precious it may seem.

The Illusion of Numbers

Numbers, as tempting as they are, are an illusion. We shouldn’t preoccupy ourselves with numbers.

What does 40,000 likes on Facebook and 25,000 followers on Twitter mean? Do they mean that I am somewhat better than someone who has less than 40,000 likes and 25,000 followers? Am I more credible because I have those numbers?

If so, then riddle me this: what about the Prophets? Some of them had only a handful of followers and some of them had none.

But they are Prophets, the greatest human beings to ever walk on this earth. If numbers were the measuring stick, then where do you place them?

Truth is free of numbers. Even if the whole world is on my side, but if I am not with the truth, then I am nothing.

Nothing. That number is zero.

Finding Blessing in Numbers

You can get 1,000,000 views in a Youtube video and congratulations to you on that achievement. But don't be overjoyed by the numbers and the numbers alone. Rather, think about how much blessings do the numbers bring you?

Even if you have 100 views on Youtube, but God’s blessing is with you, then that number is bigger than 1,000,000 views that are impoverished with the absence of His blessings.

Imagine this: If those 100 people who watched your video got inspired by your message and consequently they decided to change their lives for the better, isn’t that better than 1,000,000 people who watched your video but gained nothing except for a few laughs and a few clicks of the “like” button?

I am not against viral videos. That is not what this post is about. You can have both virality and blessing, but which one of the two is your priority?

Referring to the question in the beginning, a better question to ask could be, "What are the factors that make a blessed video?"

That question, needs to go viral.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Should I Get A Masters Degree?

Photo by Matt Smith

Alhamdulillah (all praises and thanks are due to God), I have finished my undergraduate education from University of Toronto Missisauga. I now hold a Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Psychology.


When you finish your undergraduate, other than asking about marriage, people will normally ask about whether or not you are going to further your studies - which is understandable. I got asked that question a few times.

I am trying to form a habit of asking myself "why?" before making decisions, particularly big decisions like pursuing masters degree. So when people ask me whether or not I will continue my studies, I ask myself "why?"

Why do I want a masters degree?

The two usual reasons (among many) that people associate with getting a masters degree are better pay and higher status. I see the merits in both reasons, but those reasons aren't enough to make me do it. Although money and status are important, I don't want to chase after them just for the sake of chasing them.

Being rich doesn't guarantee an enriched life. Having a high status among people doesn't guarantee a high status with Allah. So money and status are not good enough. I demand a higher purpose from myself.

Another reason that people might pursue masters degree is because other people are doing it. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I don't want to do something just because others are doing it.

We are all unique individuals who can think for ourselves. Although from time to time it's good to take wisdom from other people, we cannot rely 100% on people. We cannot outsource our own strength.

So why should I pursue a masters degree?

I am not saying that I won't pursue a masters degree or that pursuing a masters degree is a bad thing. I am just saying that I will not pursue it for petty reasons like money or status.

There must be a higher and a more noble goal than that.

p/s: Before pursuing anything, ask ourselves three things:

1) What am I pursuing?
2) Why am I pursuing it?
3) Will it please Allah?