If you’re under 30, chances are you have either a facebook profile, a MySpace page, or both. And if you’re on facebook or MySpace, you’ve probably had some of those sick to your stomach moments. Maybe it was when you saw pictures posted of a party you weren’t invited to, or found out from the newsfeed that your ex has got a blond leggy new girlfriend. Or maybe you were moved out of your best friend’s Top Eight. Either you heard something you didn’t really want to know, or you broadcast something you kind of wish you hadn’t. It’s happened to all of us, and it really sucks. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with facebook (thus far I’ve kept myself from developing any relatioship with MySpace). On the one hand, I love that it reminds me about birthdays and helps me keep track of which of my friends are where, and what their latest contact information is. I think of it like a rolodex that my friends update for me. BUT I’ve had some seriously upsetting facebook experiences. Turns out there are some people who I really don’t want to find me, and some things I’d really rather not know about my friends. I hadn’t thought about these issues in a Jewish context, but then at Limmud NY there was a session called ‘What does Judaism have to say about Facebook and MySpace?’ led by Rabbi Joan Glazer Farber. Rabbi Glazer-Farber presented a bunch of texts having to do with lashon hara (gossip) and publicly humiliating people, which are definitely issues that arise on social networking sites. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think these are more prevalent problems with younger users. I keep reading articles about teenagers bullying each other via MySpace and facebook, but the sense I get is that it’s the same kind of stuff we used to do in real life back when I was 14. I’m not saying it’s okay, but I’m not sure it’s any worse than other kinds of bullying. My experience is that social networking is all about proving yourself. These sites are built on the principle of “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, but I think most of the time other people don’t really care about whatever you’re flaunting. And when they do? Well, then you’re screwed. Being held to something you posted on facebook at four in the morning? Not fun. Somebody will ask you about it. Somebody could tell your mom about it (that seriously happened to a friend of mine). There’s a pretty huge potential for it to bite you in the ass. The Shulchan Aruch, (Hoshen Mishpat 154:7) says that it’s prohibited to stand at your window and look into your neighbor’s courtyard, even if your neighbor helped you build the window and knows that you can see onto his property. The implication is that your neighbor might have forfeited his right to privacy, but that still doesn’t make it okay to snoop. And that’s why facebook makes me nervous. It feels too much like snooping sometimes, and even though I know my friends are aware that the stuff they wrote and posted is available to everyone to see, I still think it’s sketchy. I think most of us aren’t aware of how much privacy we actually want until it’s too late. What about you guys? Is anyone else a little freaked out about all this?
Tamar Fox has an MFA from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, but she still doesn't like sweet tea. Born and raised in Chicago, she's also lived in Iowa City, Dublin, Oxford, and Jerusalem. When she's not rocking out at honky tonks she teaches text study, cooks elaborate meals, and volunteers for a hospice. When she grows up she wants to be a professional whiskey taster.