Sure there is a joke here, leaving that to some of my funnier fiends. This is about a different view of being social, so hang on while I explain.
What happens when you disagree with your Rabbi?
No, you don’t go to hell or get banned from synagogue, but in some places this is implausible. One should never go against their Rabbi’s rulings! (For the record I never asked about the internet but the view is comparable to that of watching TV or a movie)
This is not about the side that wants to ban the internet or believes it is all bad. No, I am talking about a specific aspect of the internet which over the last few years has grown to take over our lives in a way only Fahrenheit 451 knew all too well with the parlor walls.
People like to gossip, social media is like a drug for the gossip monger crowd. The Torah reminds us to not speak poorly about anyone, not to tell tales, not to slander people. It is all about watching out for other people’s feelings, which in turn watches out for your own.
How does it do this?
There is a, how do I say this, a superstition to some or perhaps a string thread of life, that there is an evil eye that watches you when you commit this gossip and slandering and returns it back to you. Boomerang effect. What goes around comes around and other metaphors.
On a personal level, I agree with the Rabbi. Posting about your trips, your new car, your kids winning the cross country bobsled race leads others to acts of depression, anger and baseless hatred against you or your family.
Recently I presented on this subject in Boston at the Social Connections 8 event, this does not encourage people to be better or think, “I should do that” nor does it reinforce the effort required to reach that lofty goal. How many months or years did you practice the bobsledding after all?
If we recall how social media started, an Israeli company created a product called ICQ (before many of you had a clue what the internet was or even a Blackbery) which was eventually bought by AOL and led to more interpersonal discussions than the IRC (Internet Relay Chat) ever could imagine. 20 years later or so and we have become Facebook drones.
There is a great part of social media which works really well and that is for family, and friends, to keep up with each other. The fact that at some point I decided to friend coworkers, employers, business associates is where the problem starts to begin with my digression from my Rabbi’s opinion.
My view is from a professional level, people want to see, hear, read, listen to you to know if they should hire you, book you as a speaker or trust your opinion. In order to do that, it takes a bit of over the top extroversion which for many is hard. In the capitalistic society there is a ledger, just like the one God writes in on Yom Kippur. The difference is one is about our spiritual side, one is about our physical lives. Which one is ore important to you?
Should we have accounts just for business and just for personal should be the question. Some people do, I have and gone back and forth over the last 15 years and I decided to maintain all as equal. The reason was it became too difficult to maintain separate lives virtually, in addition to my daily life. Changes in attitudes over the years allowed myself, and many business professionals, to became more open about our religious needs for holidays and early Friday due to shabbat but for some it is near impossible to do so.
My Twitter profile addresses professional and personal by saying in Hebrew that I observe Shabbat so those that know, will understand what I do, and how I do it. When limited on space, this was the easiest way to say it.
If I am at a conference, speaking at an event, or meeting someone in my professional world that is exciting, well to me at least, or for business purposes then I post it, or about it. It helps me because if all of us are responsible for one another, or if you prefer the 6 degrees of separation theory, someone I know may need that connection or in turn may bring me to someone that needs my professional help.
Do I, and others, post things we should not? Hell yeah! But, no, we really shouldn’t.
There is an Al Chet for inappropriate social media posting, but during the 10 days of repentance you should make sure to ask forgiveness from all your included friends in your not so proper postings.
This is what Shavuot is about. One person trying to make their way in a world they feel uncomfortable in. The only way to make it work, is to let some people know you are back in town. The story line in many ways parallels our times today. Modesty was included, but questionable methods were used as well. Just like social media today.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom