Singing the Praises of Social Media
Some of you might remember a column I wrote a few months ago, where I recounted my unfortunate experience of being sucked into a TikTok video – and then mindlessly spending an hour of my precious time scrolling through inane videos. I vowed that it would never happen again, and so far I’ve kept to my promise.
Since that time, the State of Montana has issued a formal ban on using TikTok because of privacy concerns, and others are asking for other legislative measures to prevent children and teenagers from using the social media app. While I sympathize somewhat with the concerns about TikTok, and would certainly not lose any sleep if TikTok would simply disappear, the fact is that bans virtually never work … and even if controls were put into place, it would be almost impossible to enforce.
But enough about the negatives inherent in TikTok. Today I’m here to extol the virtues of social media – specifically Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn – and how I have leaned to embrace the medium and use it to maximum advantage.
Here are five reasons why social media has become a valuable part of my daily life… and why those who have shied away from using it might reconsider.
First of all, it is highly efficient. In addition to the exposure I receive from having my column published in the print edition of The Jewish Link, I also can benefit from posting a hyperlink to my column once it appears online – allowing the 2,200 “friends” I have on Facebook outside the NY metro area, in Israel, and in other parts of the world to read my column, too (at least those friends who are allowed to see it after they pass through Facebook’s complex algorithm). I continue to be amazed at the likes and comments I receive from different people across the globe who, if not for Facebook, would never have seen my columns. Thank you, Facebook!
It was also a highly efficient medium to distribute funeral and shiva information about our daughter Tova’s tragic death. Our shul email lists successfully provided the information to all those who live locally here in Stamford, but with one post and a click of a button, I was also able to share the news with hundreds of others who live out of town. Dozens and dozens of people attended Tova’s funeral and/or paid us a shiva call after hearing about her death through social media. Sharon and I were comforted by their presence, which certainly would not have happened without the help of Facebook.
And talk about a perfectly efficient application for makeshift Friday night minyanim – WhatsApp allows you to accurately count at least 10 attendees as late as 10 or 15 minutes before a minyan start time, thus avoiding the problem of showing up for a minyan and finding out there are only eight men.
Second, it has allowed me to reconnect with people I have not seen in decades – some with whom I go back to elementary school. During COVID, a couple of fellow alumni started a WhatsApp group for our high school class – it is still active today, with fellow classmates sharing news of simchas with each other and mini-reunions in Israel between those who live there and those visiting the country.
Third, I have read many interesting articles and posts on social media that friends have shared with me, written by people who I did not know. This in turn has allowed me to build new and meaningful online friendships, all of which would not have been able to happen if Facebook did not make it so easy to share posts with friends. And while I admit there have been a few non-productive discussions I have had on social media, for the most part I have engaged in some very productive dialogue with others on halacha, current events, and other matters of Jewish interest, which I have found extremely enjoyable and worthwhile.
Fourth, Facebook and LinkedIn are excellent research tools when you want to find out more about an individual. Whenever I have a call or a meeting with a new person in my profession, the first thing I do is check his or her LinkedIn page, in order to see if we have any mutual contacts. If we do, I’ll often call the mutual contact to get an assessment before I meet or speak to the individual.
Similarly, when we were actively recruiting new families to move to Stamford, I would often want to extend an invitation to them to spend Shabbat with us at our home. Before I did, I’d check out their Facebook profile for mutual friends – and get a reference from someone who I trust. While I didn’t expect an ax murderer to be interested in moving to Stamford, I always felt a little better if they were friendly with a few people I knew. You can also get a pretty clear picture of their hashkafa and religious outlook by the friends they have on social media.
Finally, as a marketer with an entrepreneurial spirit, I always admire those folks who have been able to start their own business. And Instagram has made it incredible easy to begin a business on a shoestring – and scale it as you desire. I know several people who have built successful businesses utilizing social media tools. What a great application!
To be clear, all of the accolades I have outlined must be measured against the total amount of time you spend using social media. There are plenty of people who waste several hours of the day on multiple social media platforms they use, especially if they are logging on for no reason except to explore. This is not the way to harness the power of social media. However, if you visit with a purpose, it can be a much more satisfying and productive experience.
Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook. I’m always looking for new and interesting online friends!