I’ve had my share of ups and downs with Facebook, including periods of inactivity and deactivation. I even ranted publicly a few months ago about the Phony Facebook Phenomenon. While I still believe in general, that technology is more alienating than bonding, I’ve developed a new appreciation for this powerful tool. Recently, I reconnected with many childhood friends now scattered across the continents. Facebook made it possible for me to see photos of their children, partake on some level in their celebrations, and even lend cyberspace support at times of need.
Then politics got in the way.
There is a substantial group of firm believers that individual political opinions do not belong on Facebook. I belong to that group with one exception: Matters pertaining to my homeland, Israel. I unapologetically make the exception for Facebook posts supporting Israel, and my friends oblige or suffer me in silence. I make the exception because it’s so personal to me, which makes the lack of “likes” and “comments” so painful. If it’s personal for me, isn’t it personal for all Jews? Apparently not. And I’m trying to come to grips with that.
I’ve received countless emails, texts and private Facebook messages in the weeks since Israel has been forced to defend itself against Hamas. Many ask about my family and friends. Others, not familiar with the issues, ask for clarification, which I’m happy to provide with the caveat that views are my own. I would love to direct those friends to the newspapers, which used to be a source of news, but now are pages filled with opinions, which taint everything with a left or right viewpoint. This conflict has nothing to do with leaning left or right. It has to do with terrorism.
I post updates daily and voice my concerns over the apathy and silence. And then the emails, private messages, texts and calls come pouring in. I am told over and over again that friends’ Facebook accounts include business, as well as personal contacts, making it “difficult” for them to make political statements. I get that. But then why the private messages to me? I’m also pretty sure that if Facebook had been around on 9/11, most everyone’s status would have reflected solidarity against Al Qaeda (as well it should) and American flags would have been the cover photo of choice.
I try to understand the friends who are bound by work contracts and privacy issues, but what about the rest? I also have trouble accepting the attitude of an acquaintance who told me that Jews should keep quiet and lie low. That did not work very well in Europe in the 1930s. With current demonstrations in U.S. cities as well as in Germany, Antwerp, and Paris, and Jewish businesses being threatened and even torched, putting our heads down and keeping a low profile doesn’t seem like a sound strategy.
I am not judging, but I will continue to do what feels right for me. I am not bound by a work contract and rules that require me to avoid political issues on my personal page. But I do have a small following that I’m trying to build, perhaps an interested audience, should I ever calm down and finish my manuscript. I have alienated potential readers on Twitter and Facebook. But I am my own boss and answer to my own conscience. So maybe the brand I am trying to build IS suffering, but my values are not.
Apathy or lack of response are on one side of the spectrum. Spewing hatred and lies are on the other. I respond and will continue to respond using facts, not opinions. I will continue to block extremists on both sides, because fanatic values are insane and unhelpful. I will continue to pray for peace, and an end to bloodshed on both sides, because as a Jew I value life above all, and have been taught since my preschool days to always wish for peace.
I’m sickened by the choices my friends are forced to make: unfriend a particularly offensive “friend?” One of my dearest friends has been bombarded with public and private messages from a “friend” who spews hatred, that is not factually based all over his own, as well as her Facebook pages. She is struggling with whether to unfriend him. The choice is not mine, but I sent her a link to an excellent article I read on this topic: Shalom, Motherf****r, by Eitan Chitayat for the Times of Israel.
I’ve considered taking a break from Facebook to get relief from both the apathy and the offensive posts that are causing me so much anguish. But then I remember my friends who live a world away. My conflict is not on their front burners and their conflicts are not necessarily on mine. I do not want to lose touch with them.
There is no rationale for the lack of support locally, but I’m trying to accept that everyone feels, deals and heals differently.
My Facebook family remains dysfunctional. Like all families, there are the good aspects, the bad and the inevitably ugly. For now, I am choosing to not jump ship, and I am grateful to so many of you for your personal and heartwarming support during these painful times. My prayers for peace are a constant mantra and I wish there was no need for a post like this one.