The blessings and curses of social media

facebook_like_button_blue-625x1000Over the past few weeks, since my mom’s death, I have spent time both on this blog and my Facebook feed as well as other social media sites looking for comments my mom had made to posts I’d written.  For a senior, she was one well versed social media expert, in fact, my mom got on Twitter before I did and had both a blog and Facebook presence. Most of the comments on my blog were lovely, supportive opportunities for her to share her own experiences like this comment after a blog post I’d written about giving a young girl $10 at the airport or this comment on a post where I ‘d shared a recipe from my paternal grandmother and she remembered her fondly as well.

When she commented on my FB page sometimes those were more tricky. I was often upset that she was sharing so much in reply to something I’d written, listing her own life story or mine in the comment section for everyone to read. She sometimes shared comments on my wall that made me uncomfortable. These past few weeks, however, rereading some of her comments both on my Facebook and my blog, I am filled with a new perspective. In fact, I honestly wish there were more, because with these words I feel like I have a piece of her and some additional insight into something that was important to her or something she wanted me to know. It is baffling to me that something that was such a source of conflict and irritation just a few months ago could actually provide some comfort to me now. I guess that’s life, in different circumstances your prospective changes.  Today mom, I am grateful that you were a no holds bar, share it all kind of woman even though that used to be very hard for me.  Thank you for being on my blog and Facebook page so often and leaving a piece of yourself on-line. I am so grateful for the gift of those words now. I love you.


Facebook and Twitter can aid in doing mitzvahs

It dawned on me this week that I am beginning to notice social media used as a way to invite others to participate in a mitzvah or good deed. Earlier this week, an acquaintance posted this request,

“Help me out here…does anyone know someone who has either court side or box seats to the Blazers that might be willing to give them up so a 100-year-old woman can see a game? She is a HUGE fan and we are trying to surprise her on her birthday.”

He had posted on behalf of a friend and the flurry of comments that took place literally within the hour was heart warming. People made great suggestions and ultimately someone offered to help him get the tickets.

A day later, a friend of mine from the Boston area posted this…

“OK cookie lovers…we are 14 boxes shy of a big number over here… Any takers? Remember, you don’t have to eat them yourselves. The Cookies for a Cause sends boxes you donate to the US Troops overseas…”

Of course, I saw that post and commented that I’d buy one box and asked her to send me her email address. I saw three or four others who did the same thing.

When in our history could we so easily and effortlessly ask and receive what we needed? No matter what people believe about social media, it does allows people to connect in ways that we have never done before, getting the word out about large and small giving opportunities. What an amazing tool when put to good use. So hop online and join the conversation, perhaps you will be able to engage in a mitzvah or see one unfolding on Facebook as I was lucky enough to witness twice this week.

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

A friend recently posted on Facebook an interesting status update that  mentioned some friends who she’d heard complaining were upset when people use the greeting Happy Holidays now instead of just wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. The complaining friend said she felt this detracted from the meaning of Christmas. My friend mentioned she felt “privileged to live in a country that can include more than one holiday in December, and that she wanted to show that feeling of pride by including everyone’s holidays in her warm wishes for a cold winter.”

It elicited quite a lot of commentary on Facebook and made me ponder this issue as well. Having grown up Jewish in rural Vermont where we were one of very few Jewish families, I definitely have some thoughts on this issue. When I was growing up and people would wish me a Merry Christmas it immediately made me feel like an outsider. I don’t remember ever saying much at the time except perhaps just replying “Merry Christmas” as well, but it did immediately remind me that I was different. That said, I have always loved this time of year and find it quite a beautiful season. I love the lights, the holiday food, the gaiety in the air and find that people do somehow seem happier than usual. Now that I am a mother, we’ve chosen to add some family holiday customs into our life and enjoy several events around the city to visit the Christmas lights throughout the season. I don’t feel like this detracts from our enjoyment of the holiday of Hanukkah but allows me to participate in activities that our family cherishes doing together each year. I do remember once as a young mother, when a store clerk asked my daughter what Santa was going to bring her, my daughter loudly replied, “I don’t believe in Santa because I am Jewish.”

Let’s be frank though about why Hanukkah, a relatively minor Jewish holiday in our tradition, has been propelled into a holiday acknowledged as equivalent to Christmas. It’s been the commercial marketing that has done this, that has produced products and cards and other things that have lifted Hanukkah to seem to be equivalent to Christmas. But let’s also acknowledge that this same commercialism has happened with multiple holidays. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and even the 4th of July all have ungodly levels of material goods sold for weeks before the actual holiday.

If people feel that by wishing someone a “Happy Holiday” rather than a Merry Christmas they are diluting their own tradition it isn’t that phrase that has done this it is that we have allowed ourselves to be changed by the commercialism that has permeated these holidays. Our more significant Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that occur in the fall have not been influenced by this commercialism so they remain truly religious holidays rather than commercial opportunities.

I do appreciate my friends sentiment though that as a country we never were only one religion it’s just that over the past few decades people are more aware of this and now many of us actually acknowledge these differences. I think this makes us stronger and more united as we learn about each others cultures, foods, and practices and by doing so we can break down the stereotypes. We are all individuals and perhaps an acknowledgment of these differences is what helps us realize how truly privileged we are in this country.

Wishing everyone,  a very happy holiday season filled with love, light, peace and understanding.