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2016-02-26 digital edition

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February 26, 2016  RSS feed

Text: T T T

If I am only for #myselfie, who am I?

Emilie Socash

The other day I was texting with Nancy Greenberg. She was in DC, visiting her grandson (and I’m sure enjoying her daughter’s company, but we know what happens when a grandchild is born) and we were working out the date for our first meet-and-greet event for our Maimonides mission to Cuba, and I was attempting to tell her – via text – why one of the dates just wouldn’t work.

Her: How about May 4.

Me: No – FHM Yom #hashtag event.

Me: Yom #hashtag.


Me: $$%#@% Siri!

Seriously: Siri auto-corrected “HaShoah” with “#hashtag.” As the perennial word-girl, I felt like Siri was slapping me in the face with two opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum. My intended usage was to indicate Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom meaning “Day” and HaShoah meaning “of Holocaust” or sometimes “Heroism.”). I think that the concept of a hashtag is probably one of the most psychologically remote ideas from the Holocaust.

If you, like me, are over 30, you’ve heard “hashtag” before but haven’t given it much thought. And if you, like me, have found yourself thinking silently “Oh that’s the number sign,” you might appreciate a bit of backstory. The hashtag symbol (which sometimes goes by “number,” “pound,” or “tic-tactoe”) precedes a word or unspaced phrase on social media to indicate a theme or topic. In theory, this creates easy ways to follow trending data and info. Just pop over to twitter to see what’s trending now. That’s all curated from hashtag data. (At the time of this column’s submission, twitter trending topics included #NationalMargaritaDay, #WORKVideo, and #mondaymotivation. I never promised they were anything remarkably deep or meaningful.)

I recently read an old article on the Huffington Post called “Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” (September, 2013). It’s a pretty fascinating exploration of the role that a modern phenomenon called “Facebook Image Crafting” has on the general psyche. In a nutshell: the author explains succinctly that happiness equals expectations less reality. (Imagine it as a math equation.) The gap between expectations and reality, if negative, can be seen as frustration and disappointment. This is made all the worse when the social media universe creates a world where one’s peers are always taking cool vacations, getting promotions, and falling in love.

We all do it: we only post about the happiest moments, meanwhile leaving the potential for those scanning through a Facebook or Instagram feed to feel anxiety, envy, inadequacy. In fact, the HuffPost article I read linked to another article entitled “How to be insufferable on Facebook.”

I’m not quick to blame technology, though. Last week on NPR a segment with Diane Rheme took a romp through the logic behind technophobia, particularly when it comes to kids having cell phones. Two of her guests touted how easy it is for predators to lure children into real-world meet-ups or find photos that could be used illicitly. A third guest – a detective from the Midwest – noted a bold fact that I had not heard before: All the data points to kids in this technological age being safer than ever before.

Parents are able to find their kids. Kids are able to call or text when they need help. Kids are socially more positively connected with friends than ever before. Rates of bullying are down.

I was fairly blown away by this. Where is a worrywart Jewish mom to turn when the data says that we’re on a positive trend?

Thinking back to Siri’s odd auto-correct of HaShoah, I also reflect on the other definition of Shoah: catastrophe. Albert Einstein said, “It has become appalingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” He hadn’t even experienced the Internet, Facebook, YouTube, the iPhone, or anything else that makes our lives so much “easier.”

Think about how much we monitor for the sake of ease: our FitBits tell us how lazy or active we’ve been. The Apple Watch allows us to check our phones without really checking our phones. We use productivity apps like Pomodoro to trick ourselves into actually doing work. We use GPS navigation religiously to avoid thinking through a map.

At what point did we stop connecting with the real activities of exercising, eating right, working hard, or thinking out a route?

I adore technology, don’t get me wrong. But I wonder – and worry – that Max Frisch was right: “Technology: the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.”

Here’s my challenge for you this month: pick up the phone and call someone. I know that we certainly did a lot of this on Super Sunday when a few dozen volunteer callers reached out to touch someone. While the weather was fighting us (I can’t blame anyone for missing our call because it was a beautiful day) we were able to reach more than 200 people and raise over $50,000. Thank you to everyone who made the call, took the call, and otherwise supported our community’s efforts to make this community more connected, in all definitions of the word.

Who will you call? Your aunt in New Jersey? Your parent? Your kid at college? The next time you go to text someone, go ahead and think twice: can I just call instead? Am I leaning on the crutch of texting as the easier method of reaching out?

A final word on the subject: I don’t think that it’s a catastrophe that we’re uber-connected. I think we have to use technology selectively. Libby Larsen said it best when she said “The great myth of our times is that technology is communication.”

And if you can’t think of anyone to call, call me. I’ll always take your call!

Liked it? Loathed it? Want to react? I would welcome your feedback and can be reached at

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