Shuki Friedman

A green oasis for the soul: What just one good-news post can do

Amidst the endless flow of bad news and toxic messaging, even a single positive post can bring light to the darkness
(Pheelings Media / iStock)
(Pheelings Media / iStock)

I’m a news junky. I admit it. And much of the news I consume comes from social networks. Anyone who “lives online” knows that along with the information and news, which itself is often hard on the heart, comes a lot of poison. And it has a negative effect, at least on me. On the other hand, when every now and then there is a beautiful, encouraging, positive story, it also has an impact – for the better. This is why I am appealing to the keyboard warriors among us who express themselves with ease and insight: Write. Criticize. React sharply. But at least once a day, post something that will bring light to your readers’ hearts.

After the Yom Kippur spectacle in Dizengoff Square and elsewhere, our hearts were heavy. Those who left the holy day in high spirits and reconnected with reality could not help but feel a stabbing pain in the chest. And as happens after such difficult events, the level of hatred, fanaticism and slander between the warring camps ratcheted up another level. A toxic river flowed through the social networks.

Then I came across one positive post. A woman, avowedly secular and liberal, posted about her friendship with none other than her next door neighbor, the wife of a yeshiva dean. She recounted how the rabbi’s wife welcomed her warmly when she moved in and helped her when needed, and how they became good friends. After all the mudslinging, this story warmed my heart. It proved to me that not all is black. It colored my reality a little brighter.

The next morning, when I opened one of the social apps, the post that greeted me was from someone letting the world know he had given up. That even though he loved the country, had served in the army and contributed and tried to make a change, he didn’t think there was any hope. He believed that things would not get better in Israel, and this was it, he and his family were packing up and leaving. I don’t know the man. I don’t know what exactly drove him to give up on us. But it doesn’t much matter. This post ruined my day. A small cloud hung over me from the morning, and sad thoughts accompanied me wherever I went and whatever I did.

Wow, so striking. How one post that told a beautiful story lifted me up, and another, dark and hopeless, brought me down. Surely, I’m not alone in this. It occurred to me that if every now and then, amidst all the difficult, critical posts that express the bleakness of reality or hold a mirror to all its pain and challenges, there was one positive, enlightening, uplifting post, it would be like a green oasis for the soul in a ruined land.

And in fact, this is within our reach. Each of us has one good thought, one good story that we come across in the course of a day. A good deed we hear about or witness; some light we see in our harsh reality. Some goodness around us, or even, heaven forfend, about some leader or politician. If we write one positive thing among all the contrarian comments, critical posts, and hateful words, we will surely provide someone a moment of grace. Or maybe even a few hours, or a whole day. If the networks were “flooded” with such posts, something of the harsh, offensive, bitter tone might change.

Before you remind me how critical I usually am in my columns (I know, I know), before you say it’s the pot calling the kettle black, stop and think for a moment. True, the algorithm rewards the bad guys, and we may get less exposure and fewer likes for these posts. But experience shows that more and more of these could, nevertheless, soften our reality.

During these days of Sukkot, when the four species we hold together symbolize the diversity of the people of Israel and the ability to grasp and accept differences and hold them together nonetheless, it is possible to celebrate this on social networks as well. During this holiday, and year round, things can be a little more positive, a little happier.

About the Author
Dr. Shuki Friedman is the vice president of the Jewish People Policy Institute and a lecturer of law at the Peres Academic Center. His book, 'Being a Nation-State in the Twenty-First Century: Between State and “Synagogue” in Modern Israel' was recently published by Academic Studies Press.