If you can’t beat em …

It all started with an English language class homework lesson given to my ninth-grade daughter. In Israel, English is taught in schools early on as a required second language. My family belongs to the very, very small minority in Israel where English is spoken at home as a mother tongue. Well, kind of. For our younger children, English is a struggle, definitely for my ninth-grader, my first Israeli-born child. Their struggle with the English language most definitely has to do with our choice of living in a mostly non-English speaking community.  Most inter-sibling conversations in our home are in Hebrew.

The homework lesson given to my daughter was about the “history” of Facebook.

Yes. Facebook is already being studied as history, although it’s launching occurred only a few short months after the birth of my ninth-grader. I don’t know. I wasn’t studying the history of the Barbie doll when I was a ninth-grader myself.

Confession. Back in 2004, I had zero interest in joining Facebook. No interest and pretty much no idea of even how to sign up. Just a waste of time I figured. Email groups worked perfectly enough for me.

And then a few years on I became a licensed tour guide and an earth shattering event which would forever change my life occurred.

I guided a group of university students from the United States.

What an eye opener that experience was. My first observation was that even after emigrating  just a few short years, I was already out of touch, culturally speaking.

And I discovered, if I wanted to connect to these American students, I would need to finally step up to the plate and become part of the Facebook generation.

I did (as well as billions more), and the rest is history.  But in the process, among the young, joining Facebook became less “cool”.

I am aware of that not only from recent Facebook usage statistics. I have observed it personally.

Over the years, I have guided over a dozen Birthright tours. And just as once upon a time, long, long ago Facebook was essential to communicate and connect with the group, today a new beast has been created to do just that, with a twist.

It’s called WhatsApp.

Confession. Unlike Facebook, I was an early fan of WhatsApp. It was, and continues to be  a great way for my family (12 kids, ages 36 – 11) to stay in touch with each other.

But I have also observed what I believe is a dangerous phenomena.

A number of the students I interacted with actually preferred a text message over a face to face conversation. That scares me. Maybe I’m just being  an old fogey.

The smartphone today has literally become an appendage of the human body. Why speak to someone today when you can just text them.

And so yes. I have joined them.

But that’s not what scares me the most.

What’s next?

About the Author
Rabbi Weiss was born in Miami Beach, Florida and served as Chabad community Rabbi in Teaneck, New Jersey for 21 years. He made Aliyah in July 2003 and is the author of "You Come For One Reason But Stay For Another." He is a licensed Tour Guide, father of 12, and resides in Mitzpeh Yericho.