Laura Ben-David
Sharing Israel with the world through my lens
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Social media – a history lesson

Casual misinformation on social media may have serious consequences

Sorry, I didn’t share the news that I recently moved. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone. It was so sudden and so fast. We’re not just talking about moving from one street to another, or to a different neighborhood. Not even to another city or region. We’re talking about moving out of the country; out of Israel. Yes, I know it’s a shock to you. It was a shock to me as well. In fact, I found out about the move the same way most people find out things these days: on Facebook. I found out when friends saw a photo I’d taken from home and posted on Facebook, and they told me it was tagged with this new, previously unheard of location, ‘Neve Daniel, Palestine.’

Apparently Facebook no longer lists my town of ‘Neve Daniel’ as ‘Israel’, but rather as a city in ‘Palestine.’ Truthfully, this type of geographical blundering isn’t a particularly new development. In fact, I remember a time when I could ‘choose’ to tag my location either ‘Neve Daniel, Israel’ or ‘Neve Daniel, West Bank.’ Since 2010, Bing Maps have powered Facebook’s Places and locations. Frankly I don’t hold much stock in Bing Maps. A simple search in Bing could not even find Neve Daniel at all, in any country. I don’t know the back end of these programs, or how they work or fail to work. I can say that I successfully tagged the location on a photo, as I’ve done many times, as ‘Neve Daniel, Israel.’ Though what I saw, depending on where I was viewing it, was either only ‘Neve Daniel’ or ‘Neve Daniel, West Bank.’ What other people saw, and what they rushed to tell me and send me screen shots of, was ‘Neve Daniel, Palestine.’

First of all, since when does wishful thinking create a country? But okay, fine, maybe that’s water under the bridge. ‘Palestine’ shows up on country drop-down tabs on forms everywhere, and the world seems intent on making such a country happen and talking about it as if it’s there, whether there are any facts to support this development or not. Let’s leave that for a moment. How did my happy little neighborhood – 11 minutes outside of Jerusalem, part of the major blocks of neighborhoods that are not even a remote consideration for inclusion in a potential future country of ‘Palestine,’ a town that is completely Jewish, Zionistic and Israeli – how did it just get ‘incorporated’ into the Facebook/Bing fantasyland of Palestine?

One may say, ‘Well who cares? YOU know where you live.’ And that’s true of course. That’s not the problem. We are living in a new reality where our sense of history is being molded – crafted, even – through social media. News outlets are barely fast enough to keep up with the speed by which social media spreads information. Hence it is social media that people today turn to for their news. And their facts. Today’s information from social media, will be tomorrow’s history. In other words, if Facebook says it’s Palestine, it must be true. Even though it isn’t.

Image: Honest Reporting

What are we going to do about it? Just remember; we have social media too. Famously, during the recent Operation Pillar of Defense, photos were circulating that purported that Israel had killed or injured a number of specific people. Vigilance by the IDF, reporters, and ordinary citizens proved that photos were ‘recycled’ from the conflict in Syria, or that an incident in question took place when no IDF action was happening, or the famous video of an ‘injured’ Gazan being carried by medics only to see him appear moments later in the same video unscathed. Vigilance and discovery was one thing. It was the unleashed fury of our social media that made the Gazans, and the gullible news agencies who fell for their lies, look like fools.

Like them, we’re not going to take this sitting down. Not just because we don’t have to, but because we can’t. Our future history depends on it.

[Thanks Sarah Tuttle-Singer for pushing me to write this.]

About the Author
Laura Ben-David is a photographer, public speaker and Israel advocate. Inspired by her Aliyah experience, Laura began writing and never stopped. She is the author of the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has spoken all over the world about Israel, Aliyah and other topics, often with beautiful photographic presentations. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, Laura is the director of marketing at Shavei Israel as well as a marketing consultant.