Think before you click

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By: Sara Gila Margulies

As the High Holy Days draw upon us, we begin to take stock of all our deeds this past year. We each hope to be signed in the Book of Life and thus to be granted a new year of health, peace, and prosperity. Every one of us has surely earned much merit for the many mitzvos we have performed, and all our positive actions will hopefully outweigh any misdeeds on our slate.

Yet, if we wish to be granted a sweet judgment, it would only be right for us to show Hashem that we are ready to make some changes in our lives. So perhaps we can make a concerted effort to work on something that is truly a pressing communal issue: the “anything goes” and “everything is fair game” mentality that prevails with regard to posting ideas and opinions, especially about people and businesses, on social media. For some reason, people feel that when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, etc., the more they reveal about both their personal lives and the lives of others with whom they have any contact, the better. Aside from the lack of privacy that this engenders, there is often a much more sinister agenda at play. Social media sites have become an outlet for people to air their grievances about others and the injustices they feel they have suffered at the hands of acquaintances, co-workers, and worst of all, family members. But what gives these people the right to blatantly disregard the laws of proper speech? Since when is the written (or typed!) word any less accountable than the spoken one? The unfortunate reality is that when it comes to posting things via the Internet, many people – even those who would never dare say such things under normal circumstances – are a lot less careful with expressing themselves, often with terrible repercussions.

Last summer, the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation attempted to tackle this problem by bringing about a greater awareness of the power we yield with a few typed words. They produced a short animated video[1] that took the world by storm. The video depicts a rebbe, a teacher of Torah, innocently walking into a butcher shop and paying for a large and very expensive cut of meat. On the surface, it seems as though something inappropriate is going on. Standing behind him in line in the butcher shop is the mother of a child in the rebbe’s class who wastes no time reporting what she has just witnessed via a text message to a friend of hers, “Can’t believe my son’s Rebbe is buying rack of lamb. No wonder tuition is out of control.” The friend responds, “Our kids’ Rebbe is buying rack of lamb while we eat chicken. Something is very wrong with this picture.” And from there, it only gets worse. Thanks to the power of texting, tweeting, emailing, and, of course, posting on Facebook, it takes less than thirty minutes for the teacher’s good name to be dragged through the mud, with people commenting on his character, previous experiences they’ve had with him, and even how much he tipped his daughter’s camp counsellor. Negative commentary runs rampant until people question this man’s ability to be a qualified rebbe and role model for their children. Only a moment later, we are privy to the truth: the rebbe has purchased this large and very expensive cut of meat on behalf of someone else who is hosting a sheva brachos celebration for a bride and groom. But, unfortunately, it’s already too late, as his reputation along with that of his wife and children, has been utterly destroyed. The video ends with a powerful message: “Next time you’re about to send or forward an email, text, or post about someone: THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK.”

Our words, spoken and, perhaps even more so, written and posted online, have infinite power. When we use social media to share Torah thoughts, positivity, and ideas for personal growth, we are turning it into something beneficial from which hundreds can gain. On the other hand, if we allow our ‘tongues’ to wag freely, we are in essence using a weapon of mass destruction, capable of causing untold harm to people far and wide.

As we approach the New Year, let us firmly resolve to harness the power of social media and make our small corner of the interconnected world a better place. May we all be signed in the Book of Life and be blessed with a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

  1. To see the video, visit: https://goo.gl/pOLhtG

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