The Facebook Churban: My Response

The Facebook Churban: My Response

This week, the JewishMOM Blogosphere is talking about the dangers of Internet use.

My dear buddy Margalit Hoffman started off this whole conversation with a very thought-provoking Maven Mall article this week entitled “The Facebook Churban.”

In this article, Margalit explains her recent decision to ban internet from her home (and that is quite a huge decision for a successful Social Media Consultant with over 1000 FB friends!).

Margalit writes that she made this difficult decision because she realized that her frequent internet use was distracting her from what is truly important in her life—her relationships with her husband, her children, and her ultimate goal of establishing a thriving, true Bayit Neeman b’Yisrael.

And I think that this is an issue that we ALL struggle with…accessing the good stuff on the Internet while preventing the damaging effect it can have on our lives if we’re not careful…

So I wanted to share a few rules I’ve set up for myself over the past few years that enable me to maintain a pretty healthy balance with internet use (and I’m looking forward to seeing how you maintain an “Internet balance” in your own life in the comments below):

1. No Facebook: I do not have a personal FB account. This means that I am the last human being on the planet to know that my next-door neighbor gave birth. It means that I’m missing many opportunities to promote my site. It means that it’s a lot harder to follow many sites that interest me. But I realized, after joining Facebook for a week a few years ago, that Facebook brings a flood of communication my way that is fun but far less important than the zillion things I need to accomplish over the course of the day related to my role as a wife and mother and community member and the creator of JewishMOM.com.

I know most moms reading this are on FB, and I’m sure that most of you are able to use FB in a healthy, constructive, limited way. But I know myself, and how easily I can get addicted to things, and I saw that FB could take over my life, so I cancelled my account. And I think it was one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life thus far…

2. No Internet News: When I was in college, I was a news addict. I was a Politics major and read TWO newspapers a day! But I realized a few years ago that the news, this collection of everything bad and evil and awful in the world, is NOT an accurate portrayal of reality. For every evil thief, murderer, insane cult leader in the papers, there are 1000 decent, good human beings whom we will never read about because they are not NEWS! In order to stay on top of important news that I need to know about for davening or to write about for this blog, I read the newspaper headlines at my neighborhood newsstand a few times a week.

3. No Computer between 2-7 PM: My computer is off between 2 and 7 PM, and during those hours I try to focus on my kids and the house and other non-internet related things I need to get done. I’ll check my Email once during those hours for a few minutes, to see if there’s a comment I need to approve for posting or to answer an urgent Email, but otherwise internet is off limits until my little kids are on their way to bed at 7 PM. (By the way, everyday between 2-9 PM the computer’s heavy-duty filter is on for my kids. A subject for a different article…)

4. No Cellphone/Smartphone etc.: I don’t have a cellphone or a smartphone etc. (And the truth is that until the evening I usually don’t answer my regular phone if I don’t recognize the number.)

This enables me to maintain some serenity and focus and thinking space in my life, and it also enables me to BE with my kids when I’m with them (at least occasionally…;). I’m an Email addict (I go through withdrawal if I’m away from Email for more than a few hours) so I know that if I had a handheld internet device, it would be OUT OF CONTROL. (I do have an Stone-Age cellphone that my husband, kids, and their schools have the number for, just in case).

What about you? What do you do in YOUR home to avoid the Internet Churban of excessive Internet use?

Click here to read Ima2Seven’s great response to The Facebook Churban

Related posts:

At First I was Dying to Get Married by Anonymous
Rebbetzin Jungreis' Greatness (12-Minute Mommy Peptalk)
A Tale of Two Mothers (5-Minute Rabbi Yoel Gold Video)

26 comments

  1. OMG- just this past thursday there was a broadcast from kol barama in israel that joined hidabroot in NY and radio2000 worldwide taking about what happened to Rabbi Elazar Abuchazera- (he was murdered 2 weeks ago by a man that came to get a bracha) Did you talk about this Jenny?? I dont know Ive been in and out of the blog when I can so I didnt notice- well anyway -this was an amazingly inspiring hour and a half of a wake up call to all us observant jews that HAshem is calling out to US thru Leibys brutel murder and then from one of the gdoley yisrale- biggest Rabbis in israel-‘s shocking murder- to wake our soul up, because we are in a day and age that puts a kosher symbol on everything and it was a call for jews worldwide to call in and say what they are getting out of their lives or taking upon themselves to be more close to Hashem and to the truth…sosorry for the big preview to my message but it was so important because its so true – our sould are looking to get filled with spirituality and goodness- true inspiration but with the good comes bad and thru sites like facebook, which I totally have the same reasons as you Jenny to have an account for our business- I just did the same thing- I closed the account and every unnecessary comment or link or ad that came with it- its soooo time consuming and takes part in dilluting any real relationship you could ever have with family or friends- just too much. I thank you Chna Jenny for this SUPER important article and I really pray that All jewish moms out there rethink their use of the internet, especially facebook.

  2. chana jenny, you are definitely NOT the last one on earth without a FB account or cell phone. i constantly amaze people with my blunt confessions of not owning a cell phone and not having a FB account. we don’t let the kids on the internet, except the ones needing research that cannot be done elsewhere and the very occassional emailing to friends who live far away. i have set up four kosher sites on tabs which they can look at to see the community news and mazel tovs, otherwise, they do not go internet surfing, and i sit nearby with one eye watching the screen at all times.
    i am afraid of letting some internet sicko get in contact with my kids, so i have banned myspace, facebook, and anything else like it. how could i tell my kids they can’t do something that i then do?
    i also think twitting is stupid. think about how much important information you would get from it. i agree with chana jenny that it is a tremendous waste of time. if someone close enough to me had good news, i would hope they liked me enough to call or send an email to share the news….
    okay, call me a dinosaur, i am old fashioned and like to keep it that way!
    but all kidding aside, i really fear that the young people growing up are losing out on learning how to communicate face-to-face, learn how to read body language and facial expressions and tone of voice….

  3. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said. As my husband says, we would never have a TV in our home but since we need the internet for work and study we have it at home and somehow it has become a source of entertainment for our kids that is hard to limit without a lot of protest!

    But in terms of the cell phone – someone just gifted me a smartphone and I have been shocked at how my relationships with my close relatives who live overseas have improved dramatically. My dad can now call me from his cell to mine for no cost, using an app. Usually we are never close to a landline at the same time, due to time differences. Now we are speaking daily as opposed to once a month! My sister (who doesn’t have the internet at home) and I can share moment by moment photos of our kids through text messages. So I guess its all about relationships in the end!

  4. Chana Jenny, Thank you so much for this response to the article. I think it is SO important that frum Jews start discussing the realities of Internet use out in the open more. That’s why invited Margelit to write the article, though I never imagined that it would be so powerful. I wanted Margelit davka because she is a Facebook maven, and she makes her parnasa from social media and so she is qualified to speak about this controversial topic in a totally non-judgmental way. I think it is extremely important that we don’t judge each other on these issues, and yet we should increase awareness of the dangers involved. I don’t think Facebook or the Internet are innately good or evil – they are what we make of them. Chana Jenny is using the exact same technology that some people use to spread hate and lies, to create this blog, which is a source of inspiration for us readers. What I like about your approach, Chana Jenny, is that you are honest about your own limitations and apparently good at self-enforcing your boundaries. I have no doubt that this is the reason that you’ve managed to achieve so much.

  5. Your rules wouldn’t work for me, because I work from home almost full time. One of my clients is an organization in Israel, and they rely on my availability at untraditional hours.

    But I think the point you make is that everyone has to create parameters knowing their own weaknesses, limitations and time needs. Which is what I basically was trying to say over on my blog post. It is great that you have found the rules that work for you… I still have to find mine.

  6. Totally agree with you that the internet is a major distraction. Even just checking into this blog I burnt the soup that was to be supper for my family tonight!

    I don’t have facebook because the whole thing just seems really weird. It’s like all the walls of people’s houses melted away and you can just watch them living their lives, relative strangers become friends and suddenly you know way more than you’re supposed to. But since they know their lives are on display in that way it’s more like they just moved everything outdoors and are living their lives on their front lawns.

    I also don’t have a cell phone and I screen all our calls and try not to spend too much time just looking at websites, but email is still my nemesis. I find I am often too busy to read to one of my kids or even listen to something they have to say but still check into my email and then suddenly have to deal with a “pressing issue” that’s come up. I like the idea of turning off the computer when kids come home from school until bedtime. I may try that.

    Like the previous poster though, my brother and I talk overseas for an hour each week thanks to his smart phone enabling free calls from whereever he happens to be.

    It can all be used for good or for bad. Setting healthy limits is the key.

  7. I’ve been having a ‘hate hate’ relationship with FB for a while. I find that I compare myself a lot with other people and their glorious vacations (why can’t WE afford that?, etc.). It’s been really bad for me. So after reading this post, I finally pulled myself to FB and canceled my account. I feel liberated! Thanks for the push.

    • WOW! That is so amazing that you did that!!

      I did it a few years ago, and just like you, I glamorized people’s lives even though that is so ridiculous.

      Am Yisrael is supposed to be tzanua. Facebook is the antithesis to that.

      Kol Hakavod!!!!

  8. Thanks for posting! BTW – I don’t have 1,000 FB friends yet – as of today it’s just 988! I’m so happy to see that people are thinking about this issue now. Pledging to spend a few hours screen-free on DaytoDisconnect.com is a good way to start down the path of keeping screens out of our family – lehavdil bein kodesh lechol.
    Here’s my intro post on the subject: http://shmuelhoffmansblog.com/2011/08/05/why-we-dont-have-internet-connection-at-home-anymore/

  9. We recently just turned off the internet in our house due to cost issues, and while waiting for my husband to set up a new plan, I have been amazed by how much “noise” is gone. My husband works from home sometimes, and he is a computer geek, so I don’t know if we can keep the internet gone, but I am rather enjoying the quiet.

  10. For me I find that Facebook is not the problem I work with social media as well so for me it is for work or keeping up a bit with friends and making sure to watch my nieces and nephews videos and pictures. But I rarely find out anything too useful otherwise on it and I have never been a browser, or a mailer or tweeter. I have to be pushed to look at a new blog or website and if it is worth it I follow consistently ( I have been with you since my miscarriage in 2006 b”h I am two children and a basha tova later now). So this is not really my yetzer hara. Email I also use for work so during working hours I am in touch and I try to limit it when the kids are home, unfortunately some of the hours coincide with their being around. I find that it also helps that we have only one computer and no TV and since I associate it with work, even work I love I have a desire to avoid it when I have a free time rather then check it. For me the challenge is reading books or the paper shabbat morning or in the afternoon, that I have had to limit to focus more fully on my kids since they are home then with me. To each their own. Congratulations on bringing attention to this issue. My husband is a blogaholic and he loves funny you tube videos so He has limited his internet use to at work and email at home. It is amazing how diverse these things can be.

  11. Thank you so much for bringing this up! My husband and I periodically discuss internet and computer in general, since we feel it does pull us (i.e.ME!) away sometimes. And also the Internet has such destructive things in it.

    I set up some rules that are very similar to yours!

    1) I don’t have facebook! My husband really wanted me to get rid of it when we got married and it was SO hard at first but for anyone who is considering this: IT’S SUCH A BRACHA!! My life is so much more peaceful. I don’t need to know people’s detailed lives, even if we’re “friends”.

    2) I limit concentrated computer time to my kids’ naptime.

    3) I have a laptop, and so I put the computer away, so my kids don’t get accustomed to seeing it. For now, I want them to think it doesn’t exist.

    4) I’m guilty of having a smartphone and having a 2 year old who is quite adept at navigating an iphone. We’re working on it.

    5) I don’t know if people do this, but I made a rule that we cannot use google images. You would be surprised at the things that can come up when you type even a rabbi’s name! let alone a noun like “spoon”.

    6) I’m also thinking of putting a sticker on the screen that says:
    “Hashem is watching, too.” lol. We all need reminders.

    I heard a line once that said: Some things can never be unseen.
    And it’s very relevant to internet use.

    Though the rules are there, they do get bended, twisted, and broken sometimes. But I’m trying!

    I’ve been searching for shiurim relating to internet and chinuch and in general the whole idea of technology and the way we need to teach our kids to use it and approach it. Does anyone know of anything?

    I’ve considered getting rid of the internet, but the yetzer hara has so many great reasons why I can’t let go!

    Excellent discussion Chana Jenny! (As usual)

  12. Aaah, it’s so nice to hear of so many people without Facebook. We’ve never had it – mainly cuz the rest of the world does, and to me it just sounds so stupid to be part of something that ‘everyone’ does – and I’m shunned everywhere by all my friends for it. If I say, “I didn’t know so and so had a baby” they’ll say “thats because you don’t have Facebook” and I hear the praises of Facebook all the time. How you can have a party for 100 people and not have to invite each one separately… bla bla — and I’m just so proud to NOT have Facebook!! So nice to see so many people on my side:)

    We also tried living without a computer – the comments we got – anyway my husband’s work told him he needed one. Blame it all on them, we almost made it!

  13. Chana Jenny, thank you so much for responding to Margelit’s article, and for sharing with us the boundaries you have set for yourself.

    I think that in addition to being honest with ourselves about the limits we set, we should also be be careful to interact online in a positive, constructive way.

    I am glad that other non-FB users have found chizuk in your post, and that it has inspired people to make difficult decisions.

    However, I would caution commenters against using words like “stupid,” “waste of time,” “really weird,” or other negative language while referring to FB. It’s difficult not to feel defensive or belittled when reading comments like that.

    Social media, like anything, carries with it the potential for good as well as bitul zman (or worse). It depends on how it’s used. It is possible to be judicious in what is shared online, and to use it for the good.

    I’ve seen some real mitzvos done via Facebook – hachnoses orchim, kiruv, tefillos for a refuah, money raised for hachnoses kallah, organizing the recitation of sefer tehillim, and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Yes, you can (and should) do these mitzvos without social media, but I wanted to illustrate that it’s not all about over-sharing.

    I sense a blog post coming on…

    • JewishMom

      great, rivka, please post the link to your blog post on this, I’m enjoying hearing everyone’s point of view. And in defense of FB, as you say, it’s been an amazing way for me to spread my articles. A few months back I posted an inspirational article about the Fogel family, and FB sent over 4000 people (if I’m remembering correctly) to that article!!!

  14. JewishMom

    Here’s a fascinating article related to this topic:
    The Halachas of Facebook and Google: A Rabbi and a Web Marketer Discuss

    http://myparnasa.com/the-halachas-of-facebook-google/

  15. This article has gotten a lot of us thinking. I also work from home on the Internet and my husband needs the internet for work when he’s home also. Not having the internet in our house is not an option. However, setting boundries is definately something that we must do. I have decided that from 4-8pm from the time my kids get home there will be no interent in my house and my smartphone will also be hidden.

    More than that, my husband is adding an additional paramater onto our internet filter (which should be in every home with the Internet) so that we’re not able to access the Internet between those hours (in case I get weak!). I think this is a brilliant idea -every home should have an internet filter that blocks out any inappropriate websites and ads. You can add parameters that the internet is unaccessable at certain times to these filters.

    Whoever doesn’t have a filter on thier current internet connection, K-9 is one that is free and very good. For more information I’m working on a post with my husband about the various filter options free and higher quality ones for businesses this week on my site, The Kosher Shopaholic http://koshershopaholic.com. I’ll let you know when I get this article written. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • JewishMom

      shoshana, please do post the link when you have that article finished. Sounds like very important information. thanks!

  16. This is such an important conversation to have, and I’m really grateful that we’re having it (and before Elul, to boot!). Thank you!

    Here is a link to my blog post about using social media in a positive way:

    http://lifeinthemarriedlane.com/2011/08/14/using-social-media-in-a-positive-way-part-one/

  17. 1. I have a FB account because we let our oldest have one and one of the basic rules was you have to friend your parents. Other than that I limit my use to occasional messaging (some people never answer email anymore now that they are on FB). Limiting my time on the computer in general and keeping it off during family time in the afternoon and during mealtimes is also an important example. Also showing the kids what I do on the computer helps them to see it as useful tool but not something with magical attraction.

    2. Our family’s computer is in a very public part of the house. There is no such thing as private time on the computer – everyone sees what’s happening there.

    3. We have good filters as well as ad blockers. Since negative content is often accessed by accident, and not because the kids are searching for it, those kinds of software helpers greatly reduce the chance anyone will stumble on unwanted content. Of course they are not a substitute for parental supervision.

    4. We take seriously our responsibility as parents. We work hard to be faithful as the spiritual and practical leaders of the home, to create and maintain a clean environment, one which reflects the values we believe in and encourages their growth. That includes teaching our kids to interact in a healthy way with the world outside our home. To teach them to exercise judgement, to be able to recognize and face negative influences properly. To know there is no magic recipe right for all ages, for all families or even for all people inside a family.

    5. Prayer. No matter what we as parents do, we all need “seyata dishmaya” now and always.

  18. So, I have a unique use for Facebook: when I first became a Baal teshuva I created an account to track someone down from my past to ask for forgiveness…

    She didn’t forgive me!

    And apart from that I only use it to log on to recommend articles.
    I frankly don’t see the temptation, it clearly isn’t my tikkun!

  19. just before I gave birth my husband ask me what if we take the computer OUT of the house, first I thought in all the reciepies, pictures, shiurim….that I will not see…but then I realized it was Yetzer ora, most of the time in the computer I was using email and FB.
    so now we`re kind of living out of the cyberworld…when we`re home.

  20. Hi chana jenny. I just came across this article and was wondering what made you change your mind about facebook? i see that you do have an account today.
    thanks so much i love jewish mom

    • I don’t have a personal account on facebook. I just post everything I post on my blog also on my website’s facebook page. However I don’t correspond with people on facebook. But I see that it’s really important for my website to have a presence on facebook, since so many wonderful JewishMOMs are on facebook. Nowadays I reach many more JewishMOMs on facebook than through this website.

  21. I am so glad that I can enjoy your website – as I do not have a facebook acount.

  22. Thanks for your quick response chana jenny. I dont have a facebook account either and Im so glad for this website. I love it!

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