I spend hours each day (except for Shabbat) reading and sharing news items about the Middle East on Facebook. The hope is that I can use these articles to stem today’s overwhelming tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel feeling. But while some of my friends lean to the right or to the left of me, most are on the same page. How then, can I manage to preach beyond the choir?
Because I don’t really need to tell my friends that President Obama is the most anti-Israel president ever. When I do, they simply nod their heads in virtual agreement.
And what would be the point of telling friends that Palestinian Authority television programming and schoolbooks—funded by tax dollars and Euros— are organs of indoctrination, used to teach Arab children to hate and murder Jews? They already know.
Six Degrees of Separation
Still, every so often, I succeed and break through to the other side. Someone will leave an anti-Israel comment or ask a question that gives me the chance to counter the propaganda with facts. Or a friend will tag me on an out-of-control thread that is rapidly dissolving into an anti-Israel hate spree. Here is where I have a chance to do some good and make a real difference. My aim here is not numbers, but reaching even just a few people with logical facts. If there is any merit to the six degrees of separation theory, all I really need to do is reach six people.
I’ve been engaged in “Facebook diplomacy” for two years now. I’ve noticed that many others are doing the same. By now I’ve developed a methodology that works for me and so I thought to share some of the finer points here:
1) Don’t spam. Be a wise Internet consumer. Share only articles that offer something new and important. Sometimes only the perspective is new. That’s fine. You’re still going to overwhelm some people who will find your one-issue politics irritating. But do your best to keep things fresh and non-repetitive, pertinent and interesting.
2) Friend other Facebook diplomats. Connecting with other diplomats is a way of pooling resources. Sometimes you’ll “scoop” the news items first. Sometimes it’s them. But you’ll both gain something for your readerships by following each others’ newsfeeds.
3) Bookmark basic resources. You’ll find you come up against the same issues again and again. You’ll want to be ready with answers. Google is a godsend. But the subject of the Middle East is long and complicated. Whenever you find a good article that, for instance, explains why the word “Palestinian” is a misnomer for Arabs who live in Israel, bookmark it, filing it in a place where it can be accessed and referenced at a moment’s notice. I bookmark such items to my Firefox toolbar. You may prefer to have a folder designated for this purpose. You can call it: “Facebook Diplomacy.”
4) Never state as fact anything you can’t back with proof. If you’re not sure about something, don’t offer it up for scrutiny. I’m not good with issues relating to economics for instance, so I stay out of those arguments. Know your strengths and stick to them.
5) Don’t use hyperbole. Trust me; the “Obama is a Muslim” school of thought is useless in the battle for people’s hearts and minds. No one can prove that claim. Ditto the “birther” thing: it takes away from your credibility and raises people’s hackles.
Stick to serious ideas you can defend with facts unless you want to be branded a fanatic. Don’t post articles written with lots of hyperbole, either. You’ll lose any chance of reaching others. If you build your political storyline with proofs, no one will be able to breach your logic.
6) Be respectful. My mother always said you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. These are words to live by. If you insult people, you will not further your cause. Assume the other side is good people and every bit as intelligent as you (or more so).
7) Spread the light. Never share unpleasant Israeli domestic issues that are difficult for outsiders to understand. This is a sticking point with some of my friends. They think this tactic makes me irresponsible: that I have a duty to report everything on Israel that’s in the news, warts and all. I disagree. I think of myself as a salesperson. I want to sell the crowd on Israel and truth be told, I have an excellent “product” to sell. I think Israel is a wondrous place. I only tell the truth and I only talk about the good stuff. There’s plenty of that to go around, Thank God.
8) Keep having fun. Wikipedia defines a salon as “a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host.” I think of Facebook as the modern day version of the salon. I try not to be a Middle East news bot. I try to be both logical and likeable. I work on my relationships with social networking friends. I try to be considerate and remember birthdays and special events. I still crack jokes and post humorous items. I want to make sure that above all, I am a person to the people out there in Cyberland. A flesh and blood human affected by events in the Middle East.
Facebook has great potential we’ve only just begun to explore. One only needs to dig in and make a start. The best part of this is that you can still have fun with social networking. I guarantee you can have your cake and eat it, too!