This is why I unfriended you

I unfriended you today.

Why? Because I can’t face one more day of viewing photos of decapitated heads on spikes. Or videos of children kneeling before men who shoot them in the head. Or pictures of dead bodies being dragged around behind motorcycles.

Each time, it’s a terrible shock. I scroll down, seeking news from friends, and what I get is a grisly image burned into the back of my brain, the sort of thing only men who went to war used to see, men who returned with PTSD.

The feed has changed in other ways, too. Used to be, there were photographs from bar mitzvahs, kids’ championship games, a trout someone caught, friends’ artwork, embarrassing Throwback Thursday high school pictures, anniversary announcements.

Not now.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to your computer, trolling for the latest Israel news. Since the Hamas-directed murders of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrah on June 30, my Facebook feed has turned into something else, a parallel story to the one being told in the mainstream news, a mishmash of Jewish-themed reporting. Far too much anti-Zionism masquerading as journalism. Stunning photos of the many tunnels dug under towns and kibbutzim. The mind-bending cost of those tunnels, and what Hamas might have built with all that concrete, if it had actually been interesting in governing. Explanations of how Hamas turned Gaza’s schools, mosques and hospitals into launch sites. Heart-stopping video of anti-Semitic protests in England, France, Germany, Boston.

Some of these Facebook posts break news. Some share cool infographics, short videos, Jon Stewart’s latest anti-Israel comedy sketch, a few minutes of Ron Dermer correcting some smug journalist’s misconceptions. Some express pride and support for our courageous IDF soldiers, some share a certain grim humor, some speak out about the media acceptance of Hamas’s version of the conflict, some howl with rage, some reveal prejudice and tunnel vision.

In the comments under certain stories, angry words pass between friends who have lost hope in a two-state solution and people who never believed in it. Heated exchanges flare between my friends who express sorrow for the death and destruction rained down on civilians who have the grave misfortune to live in Hamas’s Gaza, and other friends who are too furious with the situation to have room for any compassion at all. In the spaces between posts, Facebook fans the flames of craziness, suggesting popular pro or anti-Israel stories for me to read.

This brings me back to your posts, the photos with heads on spikes, or men kneeling before extremists in khaffiyahs armed with automatic weapons, or footage of women in burkas being buried up to their necks in desert sand in preparation for being stoned to death.

Once seen, they cannot be unseen. My children see my Facebook page. For me, that’s a good reason to unfriend you.

Facebook used to be fun. Now, every time I open it, I feel a generalized uneasiness.

How’s your Facebook war going?









About the Author
Helen Maryles Shankman is an artist and author. Her book, "They Were Like Family to Me," originally published as "In the Land of Armadillos," was a finalist for The Story Prize in 2016 and won an Honorable Mention for the 2017 ALA Sophie Brody Medal for Achievement in Jewish Literature. Her stories have been published in many fine literary journals, including The Kenyon Review,, Gargoyle, and Cream City Review. She is a columnist at The New Jersey Jewish Standard.
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