Jewish Thought

To Post or Not to Post

I was recently teaching high school students my course on how to have a healthy relationship with technology, and I shared with them that my husband and I both have the passwords to each other’s phones. One of the students expressed incredulity: “Where’s the trust in the relationship if you are checking up on each other?!”

We have access to each other’s phones because we choose to give each other access. It’s great for accountability if you know that someone else can see what you’re up to. Accountability may sound like an off-putting word, but it’s actually priceless. If you have something valuable that you are working toward, accountability can help you get there.

Venturing into social media is venturing into a powerful world, often without realizing just how powerful it is. I started using social media more during Covid; since I was teaching over Zoom, it wasn’t too much effort to stream my classes on Torah and Judaism on Instagram as well. I noticed people tuning in and commenting from across the world. I realized that this was a powerful tool to teach and impact people. Although social media often seemed to have a negative impact, I thought to myself, Why not try and use the medium to impact people positively? So I started to learn more about how social media works and to create Jewish educational content, content that helped people see how Torah wisdom is relevant and accessible to our lives today.

Having someone who sees what you are doing on social media—someone you trust and from whom you can accept feedback—can go a long way in keeping you close to your values.

At one point, I created a reel (short-form video) using a trending style that I was super proud of. It taught about the beauty of Shabbat in what I thought was a very creative way. I showed it to my husband just before I posted it, and he asked me, “Gila, is that how you want to portray yourself in public?” 

I stopped and thought about the question. On the one hand there wasn’t anything outright immodest with the reel, and yet I couldn’t respond with an unequivocal yes to my husband’s question. After much back and forth, I decided to err on the side of maintaining my sensitivity and not to post that reel. That’s where accountability is so helpful. Yes, I want to teach and influence others, but what is the cost of having that platform? How does one balance having a public platform without letting it affect them personally? 

While it would be nice to have a one-line answer, being on social media has an impact. So much money and research are invested in getting its users to stay on their platforms, how can it not have an impact?  

The easiest person to fool is usually oneself. That’s where having clear boundaries and accountability comes in. Knowing how to share and not overshare, we can follow the lead of Yaakov Avinu, who said simply, “im lavan garti—I lived with Lavan.” Instead of going into the sordid details of what he went through in Lavan’s home and the spiritual dangers he endured, he shared just enough so that the reader is able to discern that he underwent difficulties and learn from him that it is possible to remain spiritually connected despite being in an environment that is contrary to that.

Having someone who sees what you are doing on social media—someone you trust and from whom you can accept feedback—can go a long way in keeping you close to your values.  

It’s also really important to know why you are on social media. It is so easy to get caught up in the metrics of social media, the views, the likes, the comments, that the goal can easily be missed. If your goal is to influence people or to generate income, and you are achieving your goal, then you can work on ignoring the externalities. The more focused you are on what your goals are, while being aware of the impact social media is having on you, the more you will be able to evaluate whether those goals are worth the cost of being on social media.

Gila Ross is an educator who has lived and taught in Israel, Germany, Canada, the UK and the US. She hosts a podcast called Power Up! and authored a book entitled, Living Beautifully: How to bring meaning, joy, and love into your life based on the timeless wisdom of Pirkei Avos. She developed Power in Your Hands, a course on how to build a healthy relationship with technology.

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Modesty: An Educator’s Perspective by Shifra Rabenstein, as told to Barbara Bensoussan

My Tzeniut Journey by Josepha Becker

A New Approach for Teens by Dr. Zipora Schorr

Tzenius: The Key to an Inner Life by Rabbi Reuven Brand

Can Social Media and Modesty Coexist? by Alexandra Fleksher

Public and Private in the Age of Instagram by Rabbi Yisrael Motzen

Walking a Tightrope by Rebbetzin Ruchi Koval, as told to Barbara Bensoussan

High Fashion, Higher Standards by Sandy Eller

This article was featured in the Summer 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
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