As a rabbi and Jewish educational leader, I have used social media, including Facebook and Twitter, extensively. Sadly, in recent weeks there was an epidemic of the use of my social media in ways that I considered to be negative or insulting. We’re all had that happen: someone posts an insult or an obscenity and we have to decide how to respond to the situation and to the individual.
Cleaning up my social media mess is becoming a bit like a mikvah immersion. For a month, I am holding off my usual weekly routine of posting, and re-purifying and reclaiming my social media presence not only in reaction to a particular set of circumstances, but in a proactive way that will help me to lead that presence, both as an individual as well as professionally.
During the month, I’ve been renovating my Facebook and social media presence and creating, in effect, my own social media policy, so that my Facebook and Twitter presence reflects my values. The guidelines and day posts, which can be followed on my personal Facebook or on Twitter (@JewishConnectiv), with the hashtag #reclaimingmysocialmedia:
Social Media Cleanse
- Social media is social. Cleaning out people who watch but don’t share.
- There’s enough hatred in the world. Cleaning out people who consistently add more hatred, and deleting sarcastic comments.
- My social media is safe place for expression. Cleaning out anything or anyone who makes it unsafe.
- Done with narcissism. Cleaning out narcissists and limiting “selfies”.
- Respect. Fostering respect for one another on my social media.
- Humor. Adding humor and joy to my social media, and inviting others to do so.
- Music. Adding music that will make people smile or dance and inviting others to do so.
- Educating. Posting something that people will learn from. Making everyone a teacher and learner.
- Repairing the world. Adding something to social media that will make the world better.
- Adding passion. Inviting everyone to share their passions on my social media.
- Sharing something personal and inviting others to do so. Taking risks is part of social media.
- Setting limits. Prioritizing the 3 most important things to post daily, 5 comments I want to make to others and 10 things to “like” each day.
- Learning silence. Not every comment needs a response. Respecting people’s comments by letting them be.
- Exercising ownership. Nobody has an unlimited right to post or comment on my FB wall. Granting the privilege to those who are respectful and removing comments or people that aren’t.
- Reaching out to someone new. Adding a new contact regularly. You should try it, too.
- Looking backwards. Some past posts no longer reflect who I am today. Cleaning up and trashing what no longer fits.
- Stop using general posts when what I really need to do is to talk to one or two people about something. No sense in broadcasting what is really an issue that only involves a small number of folks.
- Posting something that doesn’t do anything for me but could really make a difference for someone else. Like a piece of wisdom or experience.
- Promoting someone else today. Maybe their business or career, or their value as a friend.
- Reducing use of my social media as free therapy for others. Being an online psychotherapist or relationship counselor does do them or me justice. Being a friend does.
- Letting go. I don’t watch to see who’s “unfriended” me. I figure anyone who does has a good reason and I respect that.
- I use Shabbat to turn off for a day. I encourage you to take a weekly social media fast.
- Setting a face-to-face or Skype or Hangout with someone I usually see only on social media. If the vast majority of your friendships are only on Facebook, it’s worth turning that around.
- Practicing humility. The insight I share on social media might be valuable. But considering the possibility that it isn’t.
- Stopping reading between the lines. A comment is a comment. If you think a comment needs exploration, ask. Most often, people say what they need to and that’s it.
Talmudic law speaks of our responsibility for any potential dangers that may lurk on property that belongs to us. Our online presence is no less our responsibility. I am neither the first nor the last to clean up his/her social media presence. I have found inspiration in those who have practiced greater mindfulness in regulating their social media involvement. And I am honored to know that many of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers have found value in my campaign and have begun actions of their own to take greater charge of their social media activities. In closing, I invite you to consider:
- What actions do you take to protect your social media presence and to assure that it reflects you and your values?
- How do you keep interactions (and the participants in those interactions) safe?
- If you were writing your “ten commandments” for your social media presence, what would they be?
Rabbi Arnie Samlan is executive director of Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education in Miami, FL and founder of Jewish Connectivity, Inc.