The recent explosion of popular Social Media and Social Networking enterprises has no doubt forever changed the way people interact, communicate and correspond, further upping the tempo of an already fast paced world.
To a great extent this has caused many of the social barriers that have typically existed in society to shrink, as access is easier, and privacy is generally diminished. You can converse with a celebrity or politician on Twitter, send a Facebook message to someone you never had the courage to approach in person and of course it doesn’t make the slightest difference in what far flung corner of the globe they happen to be currently located.
People often feel closer to their Facebook friends even without any specific interactions (messages or comments, likes or pokes) when they read their updates, peek at their pictures and check out the links that they post. When they finally meet in person it just doesn’t feel like they have been that distant being as they have been intimately integrated into their cyber social lives all along.
Many socially awkward individuals have found expression, and sometimes much needed appreciation in cyber community life as they are able to truly express themselves and overcome their personal inhibitions from behind the safety of the screen. This can sometimes contribute to enhanced confidence in interpersonal relationships.
So what does all this mean for us Jews, the people of the book? What are the benefits and possible disadvantages, and how is this likely to impact the ever changing face of Jewish expression and leadership?
Unity has been something that Jews have often struggled with, and in many ways these tools have unified us as a community. Groups of many thousands proclaiming Jewish pride have been formed on Facebook and fans of Israel pages abound, allowing Jews from around the world to meet and interact in proud togetherness.
But sadly these platforms divide as well; as every single solo voice now has a platform, voices of misdirection, confusion and moral perversion are widespread. If the old adage goes that 2 Jews have 3 opinions, it looks like 2 cyber Jews have 30 opinions, and there are many that we should be quite ashamed of.
However with regard to our two great internal adversaries of Jewish ignorance and apathy, the growth of Social Media popularity marks a monumental leap in a positive direction, potentially dealing a stunning blow in the battle against them.
Here is how. Typically a Social Networking site like Facebook is the same as a news website; it provides a continuous flow of information. The primary difference is, that the individual selects exactly what information they wish to be exposed to, usually on what is of most personal interest to them, their friends, workmates, party planners, organizations, causes or role models. Because of the immediate relevance of the information, even those individuals that will only check the news once or twice a week will be logging into their Facebook or Twitter accounts multiple times daily.
Now all it takes is one or two Jewish activists from amongst their friends list, and matters of concern and interest to Jews and Judaism are integrated into their immediate and relevant news feed. Ignorance is no longer an option, the more we know, the more likely we are to care, and the more we care the more likely we are to be fueled to take action.
Viral campaigns, for Jewish, Israeli and humanitarian causes online have brought struggles like that for Gilad Shalit and of Iranian dissidents to the front of people’s minds and thus mobilizing the masses to action.
As Jews we should pounce on this opportunity to harness this new age gift, utilizing these powerful tools in expressing our Jewish pride, finding our common ground and in sharing appreciation of our rich history and vibrant soul. With a new state of the art arsenal we are now better equipped than ever to fight the greatest battle of our times: the fight against ignorance, apathy and divisiveness.
*) The Author is the director of the Algemeiner and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at email@example.com.