Thursday, October 24, 2013

Another Facebook Crisis

I am over-commenting on Facebook. It’s an addiction. I can’t stop saying what I think about other’s people’s posts. I’ve always been a frequent Facebook poster and liker. Some people give me grief for that. Whatever, they can block me if they don’t like my posts.  But this over-commenting phenomenon started a couple of weeks ago when a colleague at school invited me to join an Israeli Babies group on Facebook for English speakers. 

I don’t know what’s come over me. The other day, when someone asked where they should have their three-year-old’s birthday party in Jerusalem, I made a suggestion. I have no business suggesting anything. I had never been to the kid portion of the place, nor do I have a three year old. Yes, I have two friends who I know from Facebook who have been there and seemed to like it (the pictures on Facebook looked good), but who am I to give it my seal of approval? And I think the woman is really going to go there with her child. Shit.  

 Here is a tiny picture from the web site of the birthday party place I recommended. I think those are remote control boats.

This addiction has now spread to giving advice on child rearing, of which again I have no true knowledge. Yes, I have a nine month old. However, I have not really read anything about raising a child. Occasionally I’ll ask her doctor, or a friend who is a doctor a question. Sometimes I open the email from (found out today Goldfish crackers are not a good snack choice for your child). Really though, I have no business telling any mother anything. I had a new mom friend in Chicago who basically earned her PhD reading every baby book and attending numerous classes. She can comment with some authority. She can quote sources and compare and contrasts ideology.  So, here was my advice.  

Today someone wrote that their 18 month old isn’t sleeping through the night. I decided to comment, “Maybe you should check that he is meeting his nutritional needs? It might not be that, but it’s an easy place to start.”

What the hell do I know about toddler nutrition and its correlation to sleeping? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.  Yes, I maybe, and really maybe, found a pattern in my own daughter that if she doesn’t eat enough she doesn’t sleep enough. But I don’t actually know that. It’s just a guess. 
Someone asked about the pros and cons of swaddling. Tons of people answered. I didn’t need to comment.  The original poster even wrote, “thank you everyone,” which is code for, okay, I don’t need more feedback. But I couldn’t help myself. “Team Swaddle,” I wrote, chuckling to myself as I hit enter. 

Here is my daughter, swaddled, several months ago. That little hand always got out.

This morning a woman with whom I went to college and haven’t seen in thirteen years posted that she was looking for a book to read that wasn’t serious and could hold her attention. To my overcommenting brain, this was an urgent matter. I searched my Goodreads and saw a book that I felt wasn’t too serious and could probably keep her attention. However, as I was posting I thought, well, maybe the first two chapters were a little slow. Maybe it won’t hold her attention. But I hit enter anyways! What if she hates the book? 

Will this book hold your attention?

This overzealous commenting is extending to my overposting. I wrote a very serious status update about a controversial issue that really is not my priority in life, but is very important to others. Yes, I think about it sometimes. However, why did I feel the need to use my page to comment on the issue? Just the other day, I felt the need to talk about Ramses II.  Sure, I’m a history teacher, but I’m not an Egyptologist. Yet, I was compelled to share.  

Still, the commenting is what is most out of control. This morning I made a biblical reference to my brother-in-law’s building posting about the building of his new home. Why? Why? 

This afternoon I indeed hit a new low. I now realize I need help. I commented on an article in a newspaper of a town where I haven’t lived in almost 20 years. I got in a fight with a guy named "TomThumb" who said women are selfish and if they weren't, they would stay at home and obey their husbands. I almost argued a hypothesis about why his screen name is TomThumb, but I held back.

This was my favorite book of short stories as a kid. It was the Jewish Tom Thumb named "K'Ton Ton."

So on my way home from work today, I reflected. I realized that I’m over-commenting on Facebook because I don’t have enough friends in Israel with whom I can share my (choose your favorite/most endearing/annoying trait of mine) neurotic, quirky,  dark, cynical, socially minded, historically informed, depressive, comedic, obsessive, new mother, newly married, Jewish, sports loving, therapeutic, pedagogical  comments. I am desperate for attention. Facebook is feeding that desperation like the plant feeds on blood. (Sorry, teaching The Picture of Dorian Gray - so many similes and metaphors!)

I go to school, and when anyone (except 3 teachers) asks me how I’m doing, I answer, great, good or fine. Because if my 30-something-self could tell my 20-something-self one thing it would be: in the work place, most people do not want to hear your complaints. “How are you” is to Americans as Bowing is to the Japanese. You just do it every time you see someone.

“How can you not have friends?” I have been asked. “You have a million Facebook friends!”  I do have friends in Chicago and in the U.S. But the time zone difference and my inability to text (another future blog post) have limited our interactions.  In Israel, I know people, but only one couple has really been seemingly excited to hang out with us semi consistently. What I have come to realize is that friendship is a need that I have, but my friends in Israel do not necessarily have the same needs or at least do not need them to be met by me, especially given that I don't live in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.  My husband has almost no need for friendships. He’s perfectly happy seeing one friend once in a while and spending his time with me. 

Meanwhile, I'm finding that besides him and my daughter, the only thing that stays by my side is my Fitbit. 
 I love you too, Fitbit.

 I long for those three mile walks on Lake Shore Drive talking with a girlfriend about everything from the meaning of life to Teresa’s possible future incarceration.  I wish I were giving unsolicited advice to my younger coworkers as they glazed over their smart phones pretending to listen to me. I miss having dinner in the neighborhood with a friend criticizing other people’s lives and concluding the evening with our own self doubts and a promise to do it again soon.

Also, because of my lack of friendships, when I do make a friend, sometimes, I overdo it. One teacher at school invited my husband and me over for dinner. I was so happy after dinner that I said to her, how about next Friday at our place?  They were like, um, maybe. They have other friends! They don’t want to spend every Friday or next Friday at our place!  Or the woman in our building who befriended me. I started talking to her about all of the clutter in the stairwells and what if there is a fire, and they should do something about that. I couldn’t stop myself and I haven’t heard from her since. I don’t blame her! (Although we do have some awesome toys her daughter can play with!)

Look, I am in a great situation. I have a wonderful husband, a beautiful daughter, lovely in laws, a great place to live and a wonderful workplace. I’m hardly sacrificing, especially when you think of people who make real sacrifices for their families.  I’m living 10 minutes from the beach with a view of the Mediterranean Sea.

But man, do I miss my friends and family back home.

P.S. Thank you for reading my comments on my commenting. Please feel free to comment.

P.P.S. If this post makes you worried, don’t be. I’m doing well. The above is literary bulimia, nothing more, nothing less. Also, when I have tons of stuff to do, like cooking and grading, I prefer to blog.

P.P.S.S. If you call us now, it will be suspect. So maybe shoot for a couple of weeks.  Or you don't have to call. No need for pity. I have Lior, Maya and my Fitbit. :)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Response to Pew Research on American Judaism

My conclusion after reading the Pew Research Study on Judaism in America is that liberal Judaism slows assimilation, but cannot stop it. However, that doesn't strengthen the notion of Orthodox Judaism as the only hope for the survival of American Judaism. If Orthodox Judaism became the only Judaism in America, more people would just stop being Jewish immediately.

My biggest issues with Orthodox Judaism are its stances on women and homosexuality. These are non starters for me. Liberal Jewish movements have to make their synagogues more welcoming, engaging, relevant and educationally sound.

I believe that hospitality is the key to bringing people into a community, and this is not a strength of many liberal synagogues which are too centered on their buildings and institutional values rather than on the people who do and could potentially go there. The first Jewish guy, Abraham, was hospitable to the 3 "visitors" even though he was super old and had just been circumcised. Open your tent, be welcoming, and people will come.

Will their children? If they can find another hospitable tent, I think so.