The Conspiracy

Social Media Was Bad For My Judaism

Our generation has created two gods. One of them is Facebook.

Bold statement, right? But let me explain: There is a real G-d and a god we have created in our own (albeit distorted) image, and we dubbed that god “social media.” We spend all our time on it and use it to engage in self-worship. It sounds like idolatry because it is.

“Not only does Facebook affect our mental health, it also undermines our spiritual growth.” | [Public Domain], via Pixabay

Although Facebook has many positive resources, I believe, from a Jewish standpoint, the psychological cons outweigh the pros.

A recent New York Magazine article cites studies showing “Facebook use was significantly correlated with declines in overall well-being over the years, as well as the more specific categories of physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.”

For instance, a small study by University of Michigan psychology professor Ethan Kross showed that participants felt worse about themselves over time when they used Facebook more often. An earlier study by Robert Kraut, a Carnegie Mellon psychologist, showed that when people spent more time on the internet, they had less real-life communication with friends and felt more depression and loneliness.

Not only does Facebook affect our mental health, it also undermines our spiritual growth. Social media puts a load of information about other people instantly in our grasps, which leads to instant gratification, hardly a Jewish value.

It also heightens our egos, contrary to the emphasis Judaism places on humility. Instead of thinking, “We are dust and ashes,” like our forefather Abraham, we are consumed with our greatness. When we take selfies for social media, we are turning our attention away from others and toward ourselves.

I stopped using Facebook because I was embarrassed that I was becoming focused on myself at an unhealthy level. I did not like that I felt jealous of my friends’ successes instead of joyously supporting them. It wasn’t easy to admit I had an addiction and had to fix it.

But I realized, when we post pictures or statuses, most of the time, it is a façade, a skewed picture that says, “My life is amazing!” We become so fixated on how people perceive us that we don’t show what is truly on our minds.

Our generation is obsessed with the concept of identity. But constructing fake identities on Facebook gets in the way of working to shape authentic identities. Creating a façade is the easier alternative to real spiritual growth and the vulnerability it requires. But both are a necessity.

Some do not want to show their true colors for fear of not fitting societal norms. I think it is time to break the notion that different should be shamed and embrace it, and making social media less a part of our lives is a step.

This is particularly a struggle within the observant Jewish community, where an immense diversity exists but so do strictly delineated social expectations. People strive to appear sufficiently frum on their social media, which can prevent people from being their true selves, like LGBT Jews. We need to learn to accept each other and all coexist as parts of am yisrael, which starts with how we treat each other in real life, not just in cyber space.

So, make sure you are on Facebook for the right reasons and work on your true self, not the online mask that you create. Help start a spiritual revolution, where people search for self beyond selfies and purpose beyond posts. It’s time to revert back to spending time on working on our midot (good deeds) and avoda (service to G-d), instead of focusing on the petty side of social media.

Sarah Simon is an undergraduate at Queens College majoring in psychology. 

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