The Conspiracy

Orthodoxy, Isolation, and the Internet [Religion]

Internet Access Here Sign

A rally to be held by a Haredi group Sunday protests the evils of the Internet | photo by flickr user Steve Rhode (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I’m sorry, but the Internet is here to stay. Source of endless amusement, endless frustration, and endless things you may or may not have ever wanted to know about (what up, Wikipedia), it’s an ever-important presence in the modern world. And I’m sorry Haredim, but you can’t just elect to ignore it.

Yes, the Internet can be a facilitator of some things that are inappropriate; from the ever-obvious pornography to cyber bullying, people have turned to the Internet to say and disseminate things that they might never do in real life (IRL). But that doesn’t mean that you can ignore it. You can teach how to use it safely and “kosherly”, if you so choose. You can filter out sites that may have questionable content, create your own version of Facebook so as not to see anything immoral, but turning away from the Internet is missing out on the party of the century. Literally. Everyone else is going.

I have no objection to other’s objections to the Internet, per say. Now that my semester is over I plan on being online as little as possible and experience the real world rather than stay cooped up behind a laptop. But I’m not ignoring the Internet. You can’t deal with a problem by refusing to acknowledge its existence. Especially in a world where Orthodox Jewry is becoming more and more polarized from other movements, cutting out the Internet serves to reinforce a secular-religious divide and create even more strife and isolation in the community. The Internet, for better or for worse, serves as a means of connecting people, and I believe that by eliminating it from their world, Orthodox communities will become increasingly isolated.

In a rapidly evolving universe, I understand the desire to want things to remain the same. I understand that some things are foreign and it’s hard to trust them. But removing them from your life is not the answer; the Internet isn’t going to go away if you elect not to use it. The Internet gives access to a broader world outside one’s own community, and if Orthodox Jewry elects to turn away from that, it may be an indication that they are turning into their communities rather than reaching out to others, and perpetuating a secular-religious divide that will only grow.




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