DAY 720: The Facebooked Klal Yisrael

June 20, 2014
By bethmordecai
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DAY 720: The Facebooked Klal Yisrael

*Note: This message is longer than usual

Dear Hevreh,

I do not think Facebook is a great source for news. Not only is it hard to find posts posted not less than a week ago, but more importantly the posts I am able to read is not a representative sample of the news that’s available for me to read. On one level this is my fault because though I may try, my circle of friends and colleagues is not broad enough to include all of the viewpoints I might need to hear. (That being said, is it realistic to work at being “Facebook friends” with complete strangers just to broaden my news feed? I know that the term “friend” is used loosely in the Facebook world but it should have at leastsome connection with the kinds of relationships we build with friends when we turn off our electronic devices!).

Given that access to news on Facebook is already limited by my personal network, that access is limited by another factor — Facebook tries to curate what it believes are my preferences (and those of my network) based on the most liked/clicked on/popular news stories (along with other factors of their unique algorithm). In other words, if I were to believe that opening my Facebook page equated to getting access to the greater world, I’d discover that this world is much smaller, confined, and “curated” than I thought.

One thing that’s most likely appeared in people’s news feeds this week is the kidnapping of three Israeli teens by terrorists. From the reports I’ve read, this terrible tragedy has gripped the people of the State of Israel in a similar, riveted manner as the abduction of Gilad Shalit and according to one Israeli commentator, that same feeling has extended to the entire Jewish world:

Those who spend time and follow posts on online social networks will ascertain that there is a deep individual identification between the Jews in the Diaspora and those in Israel, especially after a tragic event that affects innocent children who were certainly no threat to their kidnappers.

I have no doubt that in Mr. Friedman’s curated network this is the case — his news feed is probably full of statements, pictures, news stories, prayers, and videos of rallies that make it seem as if the whole Jewish world is enraptured by this tragic event. But one individual’s news feed is not where Klal Yisrael — the collective Jewish people — resides. While my news feed is surely not bereft of stories, videos, and prayers of this critical, Jewish tragedy (and more have been coming the closer we get to the reflective period of Shabbat), it is not dominated by it either. There are many factors that could go into this, too many to go into in this journal entry. But one thing I think is clear — in a world in which we turn to social media outlets, and especially Facebook, to look at “what’s happening in the world,” we have to be careful to realize that we’re not looking at the real world, but the curated one that’s been designed specifically for us.

The Facebooked Klal Yisrael, the curated life of the Jewish people we know, is not a true representation of Klal Yisrael, the life of the Jewish people that simply “is.” The former is good for a quick check-in on what our friends are up to; the latter is needed to be a part of what Judaism is up to. If we truly desire Klal Yisrael then we need to make our world, not to mention our news feeds, more open and less curated.

Tonight (8 pm) we will be further discussing Klal Yisrael in the context of praying for the safe release of Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrah, and Gilad Shaar. May they speedily return to their homes…now.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ari Saks

P.S. Larry Deutchman is saying kaddish tonight for the first yahrtzeit of his mother. Please help us make a minyan for him.

Category : Israeli News Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Social Media
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