Today, social media is an integral part of our lives - some say it is too integral, too impersonal; that it discourages real connection and human contact. I count myself squarely situated in the other camp: the company of people who understand that social media is a tool, and how we wield it is what makes the difference in how we connect with each other and how we provide support to those who need it most.
"'Control' Alternating with 'Delete'," an article by Renee Ghert-Zand in the current issue of Hadassah Magazine (not yet available online but embedded below) makes the case for social media and more, exploring how 20s and 30s are dealing with loss. I'm honored to be included on three fronts - one, to have the privilege of sharing approaches that helped me even slightly during a difficult time; two, to share space with people (including the incredible Rebecca Soffer and Gabi Birkner of Modern Loss, and Times of Israel & Kveller's Sarah Tuttle-Singer, who has penned a few really heart-rending pieces on loss) who are doing really remarkable things with their grief in memory and tribute to those they've lost; and three, to be included in a demographic that I left a few years ago. (Although technically, I was still in my 30s when I lost my mother.)
This post was supposed to be about that article. It was supposed to have been filed under "Shameless Self-Promotion." But while I was writing this post, news broke that the three Israeli teens, who had been kidnapped 18 days ago, had been found murdered in a field. As news trickled in, we learned more details about when and how they likely died, and people started posting their feelings on Facebook and Twitter.
Social media makes this kind of outreach easy, and although some would decry online outreach as too easy, or "slacktivism," I believe it's a beautiful first step toward connection. Most of us are aware that our online expression has little impact on policy, and certainly not in negotiation with acts of terror. But it does serve as a stunningly effective way to connect with your network's intellectual and emotional flow. As one friend noted in her Facebook status, "I can feel all of your anguish, rage, and sadness. I identify with everything you are saying, but I am at a loss for words." Another confessed: "I can't stop reading all the pieces friends have posted. I don't know why; it won't bring them back. Maybe it's my way of just trying to understand."
We know that most of us will probably not personally reach the grieving families - we are too far away, and we cannot drift through their homes during shiva, filling their tables with food, or supporting them during the mourning period. But perhaps we can help amplify the expression that is said at so many Jewish houses during times of grief - "may God comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem." This phrase is often recited perfunctorily to signify the end of a visit with a mourner, but to delve into its meaning is to both acknowledge the individual's unique loss, and convey that there are others who grieve, and still others who provide community (whether virtual or physical) and support, in the days, months and years ahead.
I believe that there is value and comfort in the online amplification of this expression, and that those of us who feel pain and speak our truth can find community and solace, even among the status updates and character limits of social media. Social media is one of the tools that links us to community and connects us through experiences, good and bad, to each other.
May the memories of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali - and the memories of all those who have been lost - inspire us to connect with and support one another as we work toward peace. (Zikhronam livrakhah.)