Social Media and Tikkun Olam
I’m not here to talk in depth about how social media and the internet has changed our society in every conceivable way. We already know how prevalent social media has become in the way we communicate with one another on a daily basis and accomplish basic tasks like grocery shopping or applying for jobs. It’s not my place to say whether or not social media has changed our society for the better or worse, but in my eyes, it’s a combination of both.
One thing I can comment on, though, is how social media has changed Tikkun Olam, the Jewish value of repairing the world. Now, when we do something good for someone else, there is the question of whether or not we’re doing that good thing to look good on social media, or genuinely to make the world a better place.
One time a few months ago, I was scrolling through Facebook to see one of my friends had posted a picture of him doing community service. It was clearly a posed photo where he was completing a task while grinning widely at the camera. While I’m sure he was doing this community service on behalf of Tikkun Olam, something seemed so ingenuine about posting about it on Facebook. Ever since I saw this post, I’ve been tackling with the idea of what Tikkun Olamreally means in the age of social media.
Posting about doing community service and other similar activities isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s okay to want people to know what you’re up to or what causes you care about. On the other hand, people most often post about the positive moments of their lives, making them seem perfect. To me, this means that in some cases, posting about community service comes across as ingenuine. If you’re doing this important work, you should be doing it because you want to make the world a better place through Tikkun Olam, not because you want to get a lot of likes.
I’ve recently embarked on a Facebook hiatus for a similar reason. I realized I was sharing information about my life just so I could get as many likes as I could, and, as a result, receive the validation I don’t get in other aspects of my life. My hiatus has continued through the giving season where everyone gives thanks for the people and other good things in their lives, and I thought I would miss the Facebook validation more because of it. However, I’m noticing that, personally, I can put more positivity into the world and be more thankful for the good things in my life when I’m not worried about upping my likes on a Facebook post.
I don’t want people to stop posting about their community service and good deeds on the Internet. It’s refreshing to see good happening in the world. I just wish that when I see the next post about someone fixing up a shelter or donating their hair for cancer wigs, the people posting truly have good intentions. Even a small improvement like writing a call-to-action in the post such as, “I helped stock food at Yad Ezra today, you should consider coming down too!” makes these posts better. Posed photographs accompanied with nothing more than, “had a blast stocking cans today at Yad Ezra!” don’t seem to encourage more good in the world; they just show off why one person might be better than everyone else.
I know it’s not my place to say what people can and can’t write on Facebook. However, if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching The Good Place over the past three years, doing good for any other reason than making the world a better place does not automatically make you a good person. Be a good person because you care about other people, not because you care about making yourself look better. Especially when it comes to social media.