In 1967 Marshall McLuhan, forever remembered for the expression, “The medium is the message,” wrote that we live in a complex system of information, physically, physiologically, nervously, humanly. He wrote at that time that there had never been so much information. He referred to this increase in information as “information fallout.”
I can’t imagine his reaction to the world of Facebook and Twitter. I am relatively new to Facebook and twitter. If truth be told, I miss the days of the rotary phone. Not so much the phone, but the time. I remember things being slower then. Having time to think before responding, and never worrying about accidentally hitting the send button-to who knows whom. There are times when I am inundated with so much information that it feels like my brain is going to explode. McLuhan’s “information fallout” multiplied by infinity.
Not too long ago, mid-June, I went to the message icon on Facebook. There was a message dated April 21, from Cliff Pinto. Who? It seems he wanted me to join his group: Israel Unlimited. Never heard of either of them. I Googled.
I contacted Cliff. I am now a part of Israel Unlimited.
Israel Unlimited is a group started by Cliff, an Indian political activist and blogger, on July 5th 2012, with the help of other pro-Israel activists including Ryan Bellerose (Canada), Simone Marat (US), Jon Funder de Linde (Denmark), Philippe Assouline (Israel),and Avraham Goldberg (US). From the outset, it was intended to be a gathering of people from all over the world, to interact with each other and create a strong network in support of the Jewish state.
The people in the group are from varied backgrounds, including writers, bloggers, political activists, analysts, and professionals from other fields who dedicate their free time to the service of Israel. There are wonderful discussions about the Middle East, Jewish history and culture all going on at the same time in different time zones.
I connect with people who write about the same topics as I do from different perspectives-but with one goal-a secure and thriving Israel. With a click of the mouse I can reach out to all.
I’ve written about my mental illness; depression and anxiety. I have learned my stressers and I take care to avoid them. And if I can’t avoid them, I try to minimize them. Information overload is a stresser.
I also write for Huffington Post, a great place (I have a great blog team there), but like all bloggers, I am open to criticism and different opinions. Sometimes, the comments can be personal attacks and others have a very negative view of Jews and Israel. Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, Jew hatred make me ill, mentally. When I read about the hate, from left and right, from within our people and without, I can feel myself falling into the abyss.
My partner has supported me with all my new adventures and undertakings. He knew early within our relationship that I had a mental illness. Knowing intellectually and living with someone with a mental illness are two different things.I have often said I would rather have a mental illness than care for someone with one. He can tell when I am becoming overwhelmed. I am sent out to walk our dog. It helps.
It is unfair and unhealthy to rely on one person when you live with a mental illness. We need others for support.
There have been studies done on the effect of religion on mental well-being. It turns out that faith communities have provided a sense of belonging and welcome for a very long time. The Quakers initiated “moral treatment” of people who had been languishing in asylums as early as the 1700s.
Dr. Marilyn Baetz, professor and head of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan published results in April 2013 from a study she co-authored. She concluded attending religious services at least monthly acts as a buffer against major depression and monthly church (synagogue) attendance was linked with a 22 per cent lower risk of depression compared to non-attendance.
She wrote, “It gives a sense of meaning and purpose” and “that’s difficult to measure but it’s an important component of feeling wholeness in life – people feeling like they have something to live for.”
As odd as this sounds, Israel Unlimited is like my synagogue, my faith community. It is for me a place of refuge, a sanctuary in a tumultuous world. The people at the site are my buffer against outside forces, against the hate that is everywhere from every form of media. I think of all the members as spiritual care providers whose presence is a message away or a “like” on your contribution.
We all need community for our spiritual and mental well-being. Find one, find many, that embrace you, respect you. Your mental well-being will thank you for that.