Ezra Y. Schwartz
Ezra Y. Schwartz

How Chaim Walder got me to delete my Twitter account

I have been thinking of doing this for a while; deleting my Twitter account. But now, this morning, I finally did it.

I joined Twitter for a number of reasons. I wanted to keep abreast of the goings on in the Jewish world.  (Yes, I will admit it, I was on Jwitter not Twitter).  That happened somewhat. However, I can avoid being an am haareetz in mili d’ara in other ways through blogs and podcasts for example. I don’t need Twitter for that.

I joined Twitter for good conversation with intelligent people, people with whom I could otherwise not engage. That never materialized. I followed lots of interesting people. A few provided really interesting content. But I can still access that content without my own Twitter account. Google searches also work for that. Conversation doesn’t happen on Twitter. Screaming happens. A lot. But real exchange of ideas, real thought, real engagement where different ideas are expressed and debated, that almost never happened.

I once tried to have to have a serious engagement with ideas on Twitter. It was a mistake. I posted about the relative staying power of Duo Lingo Yiddish, which I am still on, and daf yomi, which I began many times and dropped many times. I wanted a conversation about education, about pedagogy, about what works, why it works, and what doesn’t work or could work better; a conversation that can help our community educationally. Why is Daf Yomi (and now hopefully Mishna Yomis) successful in so many communities and is it the best investment of our Talmud Torah time? I really wanted a conversation. However, I didn’t get one. The conversation I wanted was squelched. Rather than having a genuine conversation, I was screamed at (or so I felt). So I stopped posting.

I still followed others, but I commented only seldom. Even when I would comment I spent far too much time looking for people’s reactions to my comments. There is a certain thrill in being noticed on Twitter. A certain disappointment when one is ignored. None of this was healthy for me.

Twitter did help me, I’d like to think, sometimes. During times of loneliness and boredom when I needed to retreat from some of the unpleasantness of life, I turned to Twitter. But thinking about it now, it didn’t really help. Scrolling through Twitter for a half hour that in a wink snowballed into two hours did not do me any good. It certainly didn’t make me happier.

There are a few people from whom I gained a lot on Twitter. People who taught me interesting Torah. People who shared works of art, culture and humor that I would otherwise not encounter. I don’t know how I will access these positive things. I hope there will still be a way. However, placed in context, it just wasn’t worth it.

I was always somewhat put off by the negativity of the platform. By the personal attacks, by the preaching to the choir, by the gratuitous self promotion and the vast amounts of stupidity I encountered. So why delete my Twitter account now?

Three reasons: One, it is the end of a calendar year. (I write this on December 31, 2021) It is a time when according to Chazal (Avoda Zara 8a) we are supposed to look back at all that Hashem has done for us and all the good things we accomplished this past year. Looking back, I invested far much time on Twitter and gained precious little. Related to this, New Year’s is a time in the secular world where we resolve to be better in the future. This led me to finally disconnect from the platform.

Second, I am now at home battling what thankfully is a relatively mild case of COVID.  I have more time now. And I came to realize just how much of that time has been taken up by Twitter. I realized that I should myself be reading, not looking at what others are reading.

Finally, there is Chaim Walder. The Walder episode highlighted so many terrible things in our community. Abuse, cover up, lack of oversight, lack of accountability, lack of protection for the vulnerable among us, to name but a few of the very many serious problems this awful event brought to light. We all recognize how bad these things are, but as Abba Eban once commented regarding the Knesset, “everything has already been said, but not everyone has said it.” Everyone doesn’t need to say it.  Everyone commenting on this terrible situation and condemning those who mistakenly say it was not so bad, is not helpful. Certainly telling others that their suggestions for how to help are wrong, boneheaded, and dumb, is not helpful.

So I got off of Twitter. I hope to read more. I hope to grow more intellectually. I hope to see more content that has withstood the test of time and less content that was produced in the last 20 minutes. I know this will be hard. Wish me well.

If you want to reach me contact me on WhatsApp or through my email rabbiezraschwartz@gmail.com.  You won’t find me on Twitter.

About the Author
Rabbi Ezra Schwartz is a Rosh Yeshiva and Associate Director of the Semikha Program at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in New York
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