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May 25 2012

Dear Mayim, Don’t Quit Facebook!

By at 9:26 am

official mayim bialik facebookYesterday, Mayim told us that she was taking a break from Facebook because of all the negative comments she has to deal with. Today, Jordana Horn pleads with her to rethink that decision:

Dear Mayim,

And I do mean “dear”! I’ve interviewed you, I’ve argued with you, and I’ve learned from you. It’s a great honor being a Kveller contributing editor with you.

You are an awesome person. I’d go so far as to call you an aishet chayil–and have actually done so in print–which means a woman of valor, whose value is beyond rubies. We don’t agree on a lot, but you are a deep, kind, intelligent and thoughtful person and I feel so grateful and fortunate for our friendship.

You have thousands of fans who feel grateful and fortunate to have you in their lives, even if it is virtually rather than “really.” Whether they’re attachment parents looking for a beacon or observant Jews, you have proven yourself to be a role model again and again.

This is why, though I can totally understand why you want to take a break from Facebook, I want to tell you the following: please don’t do it.

I get that the “haters” are a thorn in your side. I get it because I’ve been subject to inappropriately mean comments online, over and over again. And you know those ads meant to comfort gay teenagers, saying “It Gets Better”? Well, in the internet world, it actually doesn’t necessarily ever “get better.” On almost every single piece I’ve written, for almost every media outlet, there has been at least one comment that is not only disagreeable, but also an incomprehensibly personal attack. I’ve been called stupid for not liking minivans, hateful for my opinion on Christmas trees in Jewish homes, and have been really, brutally bullied on the internet.

The thing is, it doesn’t “get better”–what it is incumbent upon us, as smart Jewish women and moms, to do is to MAKE it better. I have committed myself, and I ask readers to join in, to conduct myself in a way online that comports with the Jewish ideals of respect. The Gemara says that it is preferable to fall into a fiery furnace rather than to embarrass someone publicly.¬†Personally, I’d rather not do either. According to the Talmud, when the blood drains from someone’s face out of embarrassment, it is tantamount to having spilled that blood. We must treat one another with respect.

First, when I see people treating each other without respect online, I try to bring the conversation back to a respectful level, and to create an online “neighborhood” of respect and thoughtfulness. As I recently posted on a friend’s wall during a discussion, “When I’m privy to an online ‘debate’ that degenerates into personal attacks of various levels of vitriol, I try to make an effort to write to the person who is taking it up a notch. I do it privately, so as to not embarrass them, and say something along the lines of, ‘You know, you may not be aware of it, but what you’re saying on X’s page really comes off as mean-spirited and cruel. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but‚Ķ’” etc. I also post within the discussion itself, saying that I find that personal attacks detract from substantive discussion.

I also try to behave well online. As mad as someone may make me, I try not to stoop to a level that is beneath me. And I know you do the same.

There are plenty of examples of jerks on the Internet–but sadly, there aren’t too many examples of smart, kind, religious parents who are as articulate and compassionate as you are. Please don’t cover up the wonderful you: let yourself shine, and let others learn by your light.

And yes, it is nearly impossible to let the things mean people say roll off your back–I write that as someone who has been kept awake at night thinking of a poison pen comment. But just don’t let it hurt your self-confidence or affect your conduct. You know how they say, “If we don’t do X, then the terrorists will have won”? Don’t cede your well-won internet territory of intelligent compassion to people who are hateful.

I still don’t agree with everything you have to say, as you know. But you also need to know that not only will I defend your right to say it, but I will stand up for an internet community of civil discourse. And nothing would make me more proud than to have you virtually standing at my side.

Love,

Jordana


Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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