Jewbook - social media for Jews

Social media has helped student blogger Jamie Rodney get in touch with his Jewish side

August 09, 2018 14:40

Given that you’re probably reading this article after having come across it on Facebook and Twitter, I don’t need to tell you that we live in a social-media-addicted age. If you’re one of the three people reading this article who aren’t my friends or immediate family, I probably do need to tell you that I am a social media addicted person. True, I don’t have Instagram, and never quite figured out Snapchat, but I spend more time on Twitter than is sane or healthy (not that that’s difficult), and I speak to most of my friends over Facebook Messenger more than I do face to face.

I go through stages of debating with myself whether or not this is a bad thing, whether or not I should try to change, and how on earth I got here in the first place, but today I’m just going to talk about social media as it related to my Jewishness.

And in terms of that, my mindless obedience to Mark Zuckerberg has been very beneficial indeed.

As I alluded to in my first ever blog for the JC, my non-virtual life is not an especially Jewish one. The vast majority of my friends are not Jewish, and I couldn’t even begin to tell you where the closest synagogue to my university is. What’s changed since I wrote that article nine months ago, is that now I’ve got online Jewish contacts to compensate for that. Now, by this I don’t mean I follow a few rabbis on twitter (although some of them do produce great content), but rather that I’ve taken to hanging around in the social media spaces affectionately known as “Jewbook.”

Now obviously, this isn’t precisely the same as a full Talmudic education, but it has been helpful. From meme pages to discourse groups, from political discussion forums to the (surprisingly deep) group chat I have with my fellow JC student bloggers, Facebook now forms a fairly important part of my Jewish identity.

In fact, I’ve found Jewbook useful to the extent that it actually flips some of the main criticisms of social media on their heads. For example, you’ve probably heard it said that Facebook is an echo chamber for political and social beliefs, and in most cases, that’s probably true. But for the first twenty or so years of my life the vast majority of Jews I met were white, middle class, reform Ashkenazis who lived in my neighbourhood, or neighbourhoods like it. Jewbook has brought me into contact with Bundists from Mexico, with Trump-supporting Likkudniks from the USA, with Liberal Zionists from Nigeria. Every branch of the Jewish religion, every corner of the diaspora, every strand of political opinion represented. I’m not saying I agree with everything I’ve read, but it’s certainly expanded my perspectives.

The other problem people have with social media is that it is isolating, somehow cutting us off from the real world- but again, Jewbook has done the opposite for me. Without social media, I’d find it impossible to meet like-minded people, but with it, it’s been the easiest thing in the world.

So, yeah. Feel free to debate whether social media makes us better people. But it’s definitely made me a better Jew.

Jamie Rodney is one of the JC's regular student bloggers for 2017-18. He is studying English at St Andrews University

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August 09, 2018 14:40

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