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Kabbalah of the News Feed

What makes a post valuable? Kabbalah may be able to help us better reading choices
Illustrative: A Twitter app on an iPhone screen. (AP/Richard Drew/File)
Illustrative: A Twitter app on an iPhone screen. (AP/Richard Drew/File)

As content continues to pour in from sites we follow and social media platforms, how does one reader wade through thousands of potentially interesting posts? With Kabbalah of course!


What is a feed?

Whether you find yourself looking at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or one of your favorite sites, odds are you spend most of your time scrolling through a feed. While the term is more ubiquitous when browsing via a mobile device, even the desktop versions of most news and social media based sites make it easily to scroll through as you search for the newest, latest item of interest.

In order to monetize the feed, companies like Facebook and Twitter have started rolling in paid advertisements into this space. But instead of railing against Facebook Ads or Twitter’s Sponsored Tweets, we’d like to use this opportunity to ask of fundamental question: What makes a post valuable?

As we will explain, there is no necessary difference whether a post is sponsored or not. What matters most is whether it imparts authentic value.

Why do feeds need to be filtered?

There is only a limited time in the day to read. As TechCrunch’s article “Why Is Facebook Page Reach DecreasingMore Competition And Limited Attention” explains in detail, on Facebook alone the number of eligible posts could easily balloon to 15,000! Yet since there are a finite number of hours in the day, most people only read a few dozen to a few hundred posts.

But instead of relying on users to tidy their own “house” of incoming content, through the use of a complex algorithm and emerging Artificial Intelligence, Facebook has decided that in order to keep you interested in their service, it was up to them to feed you the information that they think you are most interested in.

But as human nature is unpredictable, even though you may not have realized that a blueberry pie recipe from a high school classmate would interest you, given the chance to read their post, you may decide to make it for your next affair. But alas, since you typically only click on apple cake recipes, Facebook has decided not to show you the yum delicious blueberry pie one.

This of course is a simplification. But as explained in our article about Predictive Journalism, computer-based predictive analysis takes W, X, Y into account in order to predict Z. But since most people that clicked on W, X, Y weren’t interested in blueberry pies, the program has decided not to show you the recipe.

Doesn’t seem fair does it?

What follows is a suggestion that all media and advertising companies would do well to implement. Namely:

Help educate the public on how to filter their own content, instead of training the computers to do it for us.

What’s new about the news?

It used to be that news headlines were seen as new. But we are embarking on the era of revelatory op-eds, or as Ezra Klein calls in, “explanatory journalism.” To quote again from his Vox Media announcement (more here):

New information is not always — and perhaps not even usually — the most important information for understanding a topic.

So what is new about the news? As we discussed in our article on Disruptive Journalism, thoughts appear disruptive, attention getting, when they descend from a higher world to a lower one.

Every headline, every new story is an opportunity to shine new light, new ideas. Ezra has intuited this is well, but what does his Twitter byline “understand the news” mean?

Understanding is the English translation for the sefirah of binah. Each and every headline is an opportunity to meditate (from the same root in Hebrew), and to understand more about the depth of the idea behind the current headline.

Feeding authenticity

Now everything gets put into the same feed. Current events from around the world, and hopefully, our blueberry pie recipe. But why should knowing what a friend ate for lunch come right after world news? Because I care about my friend and what they do, and I also care about the world.

But to know how to filter the feed, to know what to allow in and what not to, takes a rectified sense of taste. In Kabbalah, this sense of the soul corresponds to the sefirah of da’at (consciousness), the same sefirah that we discussed in our article about Native Advertising.

As mentioned there, ideally Native Advertising should be renamed Conscious or Authentic Journalism. This means that the “advertising” that I allow into my feed shouldn’t be advertising at all, but genuine content.

Ostensibly the primary reason that media companies want to control the filtering process is to also have a say over the advertising. While they want to keep you interested in the feed, they also want to make money from advertisers. But the better approach is to encourage the advertisers to make their “advertisements” more genuine and authentic.

Even if the visual presentation of the ad is unobtrusive — as is the intention of native advertisers — there is nothing “native” or homey about an advertisement that falsely presents itself as meaningful.

Does it make a difference whether you are selling a product or message?

The TechCrunch article that we linked to above says that:

News outlets and others that publish their real product to Facebook, like news articles, tend to see more reach than Pages that merely publish marketing messages for their products…

We are experiencing a shift in the world of products. While we may know about the new Kickstarter campaigns coming out, not often do we follow up to see what actually happened to the successfully funded products down the line (unless we backed them ourselves). This is not to say that there aren’t sites that keep track of this for us. But what makes the headlines most often are the campaigns themselves.

The lesson is that when speaking about the excitement generated by the power of the ideas themselves, is that there is no conceptual difference between a company that sells news and one that sells products. Both have real-world effects that are felt over time, yet find themselves making headlines most often by the power of the idea itself.

Finding what’s new about you

TechCrunch explains the five main criteria Facebook uses for filtering our content. But since our blueberry pie recipe wasn’t let through, there is still work to do.

The primary factor (not mentioned in the TechCrunch article) is what we call the consciousness of Abraham. When connecting with this consciousness, we become enabled to sort through new content on our own. To say it another way: By connecting with the authentic character of Abraham, we heighten our ability to connect with authentic content.

A person with Abraham consciousness experiences God’s recreation of reality at every moment. This comes as a result on one’s continual work to recreate oneself.

People with this consciousness are also always able to come up with new material, because they view themselves as newly created material … a work in progress. This was the praise given by Paul Reiser about the late David Brenner:

…From around 1972-1979, Dave Brenner was in our living room with remarkable regularity, a saturation level I’ve never seen equaled since. He was a guest on the Tonight Show, he hosted the Tonight Show, he was on Merv Griffin, he was on Mike Douglas (for weeks at a time), he was on game shows… and, it seemed to me, always with new material. That can not be overlooked. That kind of prolific consistency takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

What we are now adding is the context. The Torah’s contextual landscape for this praise.

Here’s how to Passover clean your feed

Abraham said “I am but dust and ashes,” yet is the father of the Jewish people. To be a rectified, authentic leader, takes a connection to dust. Both to Abraham, and to the sefirah of malchut (kingdom) and the existential lowliness of King David that is the archetypal personality of this sefirah.

With this in mind, we can now go back to the five criteria Facebook uses (according to the Tech Cruncharticle) to filter out my blueberry pie, and explain how the connection with Abraham’s continual recreation consciousness is the best way to filter a feed.

Here’s the first three from the article:

  • How popular (Liked, commented on, shared, clicked) are the post creator’s past posts with everyone
  • How popular is this post with everyone who has already seen it
  • How popular have the post creator’s past posts been with the viewer

The popularity of posts relates to the blessing that God promised Abraham, “and I will make your name great”. God blessed Abraham with popularity. So too by connecting with Abraham, each of us should merit to both write and receive those posts that also have this quality of authentic popularity. Although the blueberry pie recipe may not go viral, presumably it was posted for the benefit of others, and not as an act of self-promotion. But as mentioned, the more we connect to the authenticity of Abraham, the more sensitive we become to detect the authenticity around us.

Facebook’s fourth qualification:

  • Does the type of post (status update, photo, video, link) match what types have been popular with the viewer in the past

Abraham knew how to speak with the people at the time. Every generation has its means of connecting with others. Now we have Facebook and Twitter. Abraham invited nomads to meals at his tent in the desert in order to teach them to bless God.

Facebook’s fifth qualification:

  • How recently was the post published

This last criteria is better rephrased as “how recently did the poster recreate him/herself”. Someone can post something 20, 50 years old & have it seem as new (read here), whereas something from a second or minute before may appear old.

Preparing for Passover, we clean our house even from particles of chametz (leaven). How then should you clean your news feed?

Even the slightest particle or amount of “puffing up,” leavening of the ego is too much when it comes to Passover. Spiritually speaking then, this is a good time to resolve ourselves to only let it flat and transparent content into our feeds … content without any “puffing”.

Are advertisements puffy?

Even “in-feed” advertising can be considered valuable content. It all depends on the author and intention, not whether the placement are paid. Advertising platforms like ShareThrough, Promoted Tweets or Facebook Ad posts don’t need to be invasive if both the poster and the content is free from spiritual chametz (leavening), a puffy ego.

So how do you filter the feed? Not from an algorithm that takes into account “100,000 factors” (like Facebook’s) or Artificial Intelligence, but from our very own built-in filters. The more we become sensitive to signs of chametz, puffiness, the more we attune our ability to find genuine, authentic content in the world.

For more on the inner strength of Abraham, please read HERE.

Image created by: Placeit.

About the Author
Yonatan Gordon is a student of Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and co-founder of
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