Social media, in so many ways, is an amazing thing. For all the dung that gets thrown at it, its powers are almost unrivaled compared to any other tool on the internet.
We’re talking about a beast that helped topple multiple governments. That makes people famous overnight. That gives people who never had a voice a worldwide audience and the ability to change the world.
And that is why it is so dangerous. Especially for Jews.
To be a Jew, and to attempt to actually be a true, devoted, G-d fearing Jew, is a difficult task. It means nullifying your existence to G-d, using the physical but not getting sucked into it. And much more.
Social media takes the opposite approach. Social media says, “BE something.” It says, “RAISE your Klout score.” It says, “Get lots of likes!” It says, “Hey, buddy, want to change the world? You better be loud, you better be aggressive and if you can be controversial, even better.”
Social media is all about puffing yourself up full of hot air. Full of likes, retweets, comments and +1’s. It doesn’t matter if you’re smart or a good person or G-d fearing. What matters is the bottom line, the new currency of the internet world: an audience.
What this means is that people who are representing Jews in the social media-osphere have to deal with a tool and a world that is in almost complete opposition with their own beliefs. They need to puff themselves up in order to spread a message that asks us to flatten ourselves like matzo.
Of course, at the end of the day, Judaism isn’t against puffing yourself up as long as you know what you’re doing, as long as you have some semblance of a clue that all that puff is just a farce and what you really care about is Torah, what you really hold dear to you is the unity of the universe under G-d. But this requires a neshama that has prepared deeply, that has toiled within and that is constantly fighting its yetzer hora.
The problem, unfortunately but inevitably, is that despite the best intentions and the most noble hearts, people are not prepared for the world they enter. They come in with a goal of raising up G-d, but they end up puffed up like bread, focused at their own reflection in the mirror instead of the words that are coming out of their mouths.
These are the vast majority of Jews who are leading the social media world today. Puffed up. More interested in hits, comments and votes for their congressional campaign than the truth. I don’t mean to besmirch so many people who I am sure came into the social media and blogging worlds with good intentions, only to point out what is so clearly happening.
All this would be fine as long as they weren’t hurting anyone. There wouldn’t be a need for anyone to blog and complain about it and act holier than thou. But these people are bringing others down with them. Some have created entire communities on the Internet, shtetls where they sell their chillul Hashems and all they ask is that you leave a comment or a like or a tweet. Even if it’s an angry comment. As long as you’re in the audience, you’ve bought a ticket and you’ve given him his revenue.
It’s time we stopped buying tickets. It’s time we stop going to these sites and listening to these people and giving them what they want, even if we’re only there to leave negative comments. It’s also time we stopped thinking that just because these people have a high Klout score in “Judaism” they deserve our respect or at least our quiet acceptance of their influence in the world. We deserve better.
What we deserve and what we need is more people like William Daroff, Matthue Roth, the Sudins, Lorelai Lehrer, Doniel Katz and countless others. People with a strong and complex faith that allows them to live in a spiritual world while still engaging their audience in a social media-friendly way. People who can puff themselves up simply because they know it’s all an act, just an attempt to connect to other souls with the same root source. What we need is not only more people like them, but for them to build themselves up even bigger and to puff even wider until they push out the people stuck in the hot air and create a Jewish-internet world that is elevated, real and dynamic.
Social media has the power to overturn governments and it has the power to change people’s lives. And when we use it correctly, it will help bring Moshiach. May it happen now.