The Seder is a Social, Media Experience

The exodus most certainly would have been a major topic on Twitter, Facebook, et al
Illustrative. An Israeli family seen during the Passover seder on the first night of the week-long Jewish holiday. (Nati Shohat/ Flash 90)
Illustrative. An Israeli family seen during the Passover seder on the first night of the week-long Jewish holiday. (Nati Shohat/ Flash 90)

What if they had Social Media back then…?

Scrolling through my Facebook News-feed in the last two weeks, I’ve been seeing plenty of what you’ve likely been seeing: posts about Passover. Questions about cleaning, pictures of home-cooked food, links about Cannabis Seders, and of course YouTube parody videos. One silly meme stood out to me this year: a comic with the caption “What if there were cellphones at the Exodus”, humorously depicting selfie­-taking Jews crossing the split sea.

Media has always been social.

The question in the comic reminded me of something I find meaningful, that’s come to me over and over again: As Jews, all our media is social by design. While the Torah is regarded as a document for study, our practice is to read it aloud, in public. The Talmud is also a social medium,  conversations collected across time and space. While social media networking on the internet is new, the experience is not. Connecting to something greater through words, images, food and other media is what makes us the People of the Book.

What is social, exactly?

Discussing the effects of media and technology upon the individual and the group is challenging. Even more so, it’s hard to describe, exactly, what social media is or is not. There are lots of platforms out there for different audiences but let’s abstract the basics. A social media platform includes four things: a venue, interactions among users, structured inputs, and an activity stream. The venue is the place, like The user graph allows you to see profiles of other users and connect one-on-one or in groups. Structured inputs and activity streams are the life of a social platform. Instagram guides users to share pictures, our Facebook Newsfeed shows us what’s new. When we engage on these platforms, we experience a connection with others that transcends time and space.

Sharing and Commenting at Seder Table

Our Pesach Seder table isn’t too different. Gathering at the table, looking around at the other faces, we enter a social experience. Our haggadot guide us, and while they share the same words, each haggadah is different, sharing and linking different ideas. As we go through the seder together, the questions, songs, and conversation become the live-feed of the Exodus across the ages. And this is happening across a worldwide network of Jewish homes.

Logging into the Exodus

Are “following” me? The Seder is a social, media experience. Over the centuries, it has emerged as a rich platform engaging the Jewish people on many levels. We recount our freedom on Pesach through stories, questions, and food. Though I “like” these things in my newsfeed on all other nights, on Pesach it’s different. On these nights, I love what we share: A deeper connection across a longer timeline. Chag Sameach!


Addendum: Social Media Seder Activities

Just for fun, I’ve outlined a Social Media Seder.Traditional Seder activities are mapped to our contemporary social media landscape. Please feel free to print it out, edit it, share it, or adapt it into activities.

Ha Lachma Anya == Twitter

The opening of the story part of the Seder is  a welcome and invitation for all to join in the Seder. It is customary for it to be said in any native tongue. This is a lot like Twitter, where diplomats and high schoolers alike broadcast their messages to the world. Have everyone broadcast their invitation.

Four Questions == Quora

Traditionally sung by the younger Seder participants, these are simple inquiries about the Seder traditions. Quora is a question-focused social network in which anyone can ask anything. Answers are then voted up for quality by the larger community.

Four Sons == Tinder

Through the different inflections of the same question, we explore different relationships to the Seder experience. Tinder (and JSwipe) are dating apps in which users can swipe left or right whether they want to be matched. In every haggadah the four sons are artfully depicted. Who would you swipe right?

The Seder in B’nei Barak == TimeHopper

Short passage recounts Rabbis many years ago discussing the Exodus past morning break. TimeHopper is a feature that shows users pictures from the current date in previous years. Where were you last year on Pesach?

Shulchan Orech == Instagram

The actual meal, a culmination of many hours of cooking and seder-ing, is served. Instagram is regularly spoofed as a network for food-bloggers. Look at everything on the table and take a mental picture and add a cute hashtag.

Four Cups of Wine == SnapChat

Throughout the Seder, we drink 4 full glasses of wine and set one aside for the prophet, Elijah. These cups, delicious and ripe with their own thematic meaning, disappear quickly. SnapChat is a popular messaging app in which messages self-destruct after being read. The mysterious air of Elijah’s cup as well as the disappearing wine in our hands pairs well with SnapChat. As you lean with your wine, come up with a caption to follow.

Tzafun == 4Square

After dinner the little ones search between couch cushions and on top of bookcases for the Afikomen. 4Square is a social location app in which users check-in at a location to unlock points and secret information. As the kids the determine where the Afikomen *isn’t* hidden, they should share their locations with one another.

Hallel == Spotify

We climax our night with a series of Psalms sung in thanksgiving. Different homes have different melodies for these Psalms. Spotify allows users to share music playlists. What tunes do you sing? What tunes do you want to mix up?

Nirtzah == Doodle

To end the Seder, everyone declares in one voice “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Doodle is a scheduling tool that helps groups find a time that works for everyone. As you conclude your Seder, don’t just say “Next year in Jerusalem,” figure out when and how everyone at the Seder is going to get there. 🙂

Thank you for reading. Chag Sameach.

About the Author
Jacob Sager is an entrepreneur, father of 4, and retired Camp Counselor. He's grew up on the internet and once made a Jewish Social Network. For now, he's imagining the Jewish future in virtual reality and in outer space. Follow him on Twitter or Linkedin for more content.
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