Social Networking has been around for a long time. The term is nearly two centuries old and the concept perhaps 30 times that.
With the internet explosion around the new millennium social networking became all the rage on the world wide web. MySpace and others blazed the trail. Now, blogging, Facebook and Twitter are an integral part of our social landscape.
Naturally, I was drawn to these new age ways of using technology to create social networks. I've been on Facebook since its inception five years ago and joined Twitter a while ago and have only recently begun to blog.
Over the last few weeks some incredible things have happened that are direct results of social networking online.
A couple of weeks ago a lovely woman came to our Shul on the Beach for Shabbos morning services. At the Kiddush (where incredibly, we do not have Kugel) she approached me and introduced herself as "Rena, I follow you on Twitter". Immediately I realized it was @Tinsbar from Baltimore. Rena was in LA for a few days and decided to come check out our Shul. Rena enjoyed her time spent at PJC and we enjoyed her company. In fact one community member even got some footwear recommendations from Rena!
When I related this story to a Shul Board Member, he said this is the new wave of Shuls. We have moved from being just a "Brick and Morter" Shul to a "Click and Mortar" Shul.
About a month ago I posted the story of a penniless Jewish artist on the beach who was homeless. He needed some money and I was not sure if he was a good candidate for Tzedaka and I posted my moral dilemma on DovBear.
As reported last week, an anonymous donor (living miles away from Los Angeles) who read the blog post here on DovBear, literally saved this man from a dire situation.
On Twitter I follow a wonderful couple from Connecticut. She is a blogging convert and is now in the process of a more stringent conversion that would be universally accepted. He is a fellow blogger as well who blogs about his relationship with his Judaism.
He recently discovered the wonderful Jewish town of Waterbury CT. With a Yeshiva, Day School, Shul, Mikva, Kosher restaurant and very affordable housing, Waterbury is quickly picking up young couples looking to settle (slightly) out of town. I read all about that on his "onymous" (it's a new word that means 'the opposite of anonymous') blog.
My sister and brother in law live in Waterbury, I told him to call my brother in law and check out Waterbury. They set a date and spent a wonderful afternoon together.
In short all of this great stuff occurred as a direct result of blogging, Twitter and social-networking 2009 style. These events also occurred in many ways as a result of "onymous" blogging. The charity case required someone be known (in this case, me). There is no way Rena would have found me if I blogged and Twittered anonymously. And if I was an anonymous blogger I never would have connected my sister with two fellow Jews looking for friends and connections.
These are the benefits of "onymous" blogging.
On the other hand (term of art - remember that discussion?), anonymous blogging and Twittering is also great. In particular I point to DovBear's blog as a bastion of anonymity and great discussion that would admittedly never happen if we all had faces, names and families. The unfortunate realities of the Frum world as they are, almost force us cower in fear when we disagree with authority or tradition and we tend to hide behind familiar rituals, thus avoiding conflict and we are safe behind the veil of secrecy that is anonymous blogging.
Anonymity gives the silent, a voice. It gives us all a chance to be heard.
In truth, we have other things to worry about as well. As Tikkun Olam pointed out, we have Frum leaders blanketing all bloggers as a negative force, when we know that is ridiculous. There are some negative forces and many positive forces in the J-Blogosphere.
Worse is the fear we all feel of expressing our opinions. My opinion on this is transparent as I blog "onymously". Speak your mind, challenge what you don't understand but never lose the art of respectful questioning. I am (usually) not afraid to speak my mind and challenge what I don't understand and thus I don't need to be anonymous. Plus, I support many of the traditional ideals that "they" espouse. But, the crux of the issue remains the environment which we have created and now support that does not allow for us to challenge.
I say created, and that is self evident. I say support because we "give in" to the cyber bullies that force us to remain anonymous. How much greater impact would have as a group if those whom we challenge knew that we were real people? They should know that we have Yeshiva educations, wonderful families and jobs and we are frustrated with the status quo. But to "them" we are words on a computer screen, not people.
Words are cheap. Words have no soul when they are anonymous. If we want to be heard we need to be people. People have souls and people need to be dealt with. It is easy to ignore anonymous bloggers. People with souls demand attention and can affect change.
Should we strive to create a Frum culture that allows for challenging and questioning?
Are we helping the situation by blogging anonymously?
Do we lose a lot by blogging anonymously?
Do we stand to lose more by "onymous" blogging?
Search for more information about [onymous blogging] at 4torah.com.