Friday, August 24, 2012

An After Summer Thought on Social Networking

The latest issue of Jewish Action contains a number of articles about social media. They published a small essay I wrote for them, I am re-posting it below. The complete piece is available on their website. The Social Media Revolution: What Does It Mean for Our Children? I think it is a well balanced group of opinions, what do you think?
An after camp Skype session between our campers.

Checking for Wifi on the top of Masada.

Since social networking is relatively new and most adults don’t understand it too well, they erroneously buy into the many “dangers” that are espoused by the media. Therefore, I would like to begin by first defining social media. Despite what most people may think, social media are not primarily about creating new friends or meeting new people. They are amazing tools to help friends and family keep in touch.

Last night at the Kotel. Boys 2012
I am the director of a camp in Israel for teens from across the United States, Canada, Europe and Israel. I myself attended this camp as a child, and I remember how on the last day of camp, as we sat in the airport, we all felt incredibly happy and fulfilled—but we also felt a sense of loss. As we said our goodbyes to our new friends, we knew deep down that our friendships wouldn't last and that we wouldn’t keep in touch for long. We convinced each other that we would, and so we diligently took one another’s phone numbers and addresses because in our hearts we really did want to stay in touch.

One click of the “like” button from a counselor can accomplish way more than any mussar shmuz!
The world was just too big back then, and as much as we tried to stay in touch, it just never worked out. We wrote letters, but that never lasted long. Sometimes we received phone calls from camp friends on erev Rosh Hashanah and maybe even a birthday card with a camp photo inside. If we were lucky, by mid-year we still remembered all of our bunk-mates’ names.

Girls Staff 2012
Today that has all changed, thanks to the Internet and social media. My campers can stay in touch through e-mail, Facebook and Skype. The day after camp, photos get uploaded to Facebook. Friends are tagged and comments are posted. Memories are shared and relationships are strengthened. Anyone who says these friendships are not the same because they are maintained over the Internet and therefore not “real” has never engaged in such a relationship himself. The bonds these campers form and maintain online are very real.

More importantly, years ago there was no way of maintaining the emotional and spiritual high we all experienced after an intense summer in Eretz Yisrael. Everyone knows that a camp counselor can be one of the most influential figures in a child’s life, but in the past that relationship was limited to a few weeks each summer. Today, that doesn’t have to be the case. A counselor can stay in touch with his campers in a meaningful, consistent way. Just by looking at the statuses and photos of their campers, counselors can see how each one is progressing throughout the year. If he notices that a camper is having difficulties or may be heading in the wrong direction, he can get involved. Adults can have a huge influence on kids via social networking. One click of the “like” button from a counselor can accomplish way more than any mussar shmuz!

Picket fruit at Leket Israel
But the connection doesn't stop online: social networking can facilitate interaction when teens travel to friends for Shabbat and get together for reunions throughout the year. What is most puzzling is that these tremendously positive interactions between friends were encouraged a generation ago but today are ridiculed by many educators and parents.

Of course teens need to be taught to use social media in moderation and with certain limitations. Our camp, for example, created a private Facebook group just for girls so that there is no concern about private photos getting out to the public. In my mind, discouraging social media is counter-productive. As one camper told me, “They’re not banning cell phones and Facebook, they’re banning my friends.” We may not see it that way, but that’s the way it comes across to teens. And as educators and parents, we must always be cognizant of how our messages come across to teens.

Dovid Teitelbaum is the director of Camp Sdei Chemed International

Read the rest on the Jewish Action website. The Social Media Revolution: What Does It Mean for Our Children?
Listen to my Radio interview with Zev Brenner Can Facebook also be used for positive things and should it be banned in schools?   Dovid Teitelbaum vs Beis Rivka


  1. What you wrote is very true and very realistic, however, I wouldn't hold my breath regarding the frum world accepting it the way you do.

  2. Dovid I read it and I thought everything u said was very true and that friendships can last and stuff and I really liked what u said about older people not understanding it and just feeding into what people tell them it's very true and I never heard it being put that way...

  3. Michael O,older people understand what it means, they just have a broader vision and experience of whar devastation Facebook can bring to the teen and not so teens

  4. What devastation are you referring to?

  5. If we got the Gadol 's to get Facebook's, they would lightenup a bit.. .they could keep in touch with one another....and have international Torah shiurim.....not to mention what kinds of debates they could have from the comforts of their homes!! They would be up to date on the latest in Jewish news, and they would have like a bijillion friends.....yea they would get spamed here and there, but (not that I approve of a filter) we can get them some high end kapirsky virus and popup control. Its like a dream come true!

  6. lets not get carried away here.Baby steps please.

  7. its very true and it could bring a lot of good but most teens dont use the network the right way accepting a friend is much easier then calling one including the oppisite gender!

  8. This is the most popular argument but I dont agree for 3 reasons. First, its incorrect that most teens use it for the wrong reasons. I looked at most of the campers friends and found that those that dont mix with the opposite genders in real life dont do it on facebook
    either. There are exceptions of course but its a small minority and I dont think all teenagers should suffer because some are misusing facebook. It general I dont buy the idea that if something can be misused we should not allow it. On the contrary we should teach proper use, otherwise you will end up forbidding everything.

  9. I agree with every word. I was a camper in many different camps over the past years and I've only been keeping in touch since I had facebook and email. I used to consider myself to be horrible at keeping in touch, but now that its easy, I am able to stay in touch with so many people that I shared such good times with! Social Networking makes connection with people from out of your town easier and more practical.

  10. This was great. When I was "left kiruv" for the "private sector" in 2006 (read: sitting at a desk for a minimum of 8 hours and barely speaking with people), Facebook was still only available for college students. You have excellently shown many of the benefits of staying "connected". Social networking is how many teens communicate today and I am always happy to hear when it's being used properly.

  11. Reb Moishe Weinberger disconnecting with technology reconnecting with spouse and hashem


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