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The Online Gaza Conflict

Monday, July 14, 2014
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This house in the southern Israeli town of Ashdod was hit directly by a rocket fired from Gaza on July 14. More than 600 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel over the past seven days. Photo by David Buimovitch/Flash90.

Dear Miriam,

I have a number of friends who are constantly posting to social media about the situation in Israel. I'm very concerned about what's happening there and try to keep up with the news, but I find the constant posting to be counterproductive. In particular, I've seen a number of posts accompanied by, "I don't know if this is true, but..." Short of just staying off Facebook and Twitter until, hopefully, the situation improves, is there anything I can do?

Signed,
The Online Gaza Conflict


Dear Conflict,

This column is as close as I will come to commenting on social media about what is currently happening in Israel. While I'll admit to getting the bulk of my news about the situation through articles that my friends post on Facebook, I have seen people commenting on these posts with the kind of virulence I thought was reserved for anonymous posts on major national websites. And even though I'm pretty committed to not posting about Israel, I've been hesitant to post about anything else on Facebook, either, since random musings about my day or pictures of my kids seem out of place amidst friends calling each other hateful names and pictures of exploding rockets. 

Facebook seems entirely overrun by people posting and reposting articles, reports, critiques, etc, and I'm sure for anyone (like me) who has Facebook friends currently living in Israel, this situation is exaggerated. For one thing, you really could lay off the social media for the time being. You could block posts from anyone you find especially inflammatory. There's been a lot of articles recently lauding friend purging, so you could take this as an opportunity to whittle down your friends list to people with whom you actually want to engage. 

If one of your friends posts something that you'd like to comment on without entering into the fray, you could send him or her a private Facebook message or, presuming this is someone you actually know, talk about it next time you meet in person. This strategy is especially relevant for friends who are posting those, "I don't know if it's true, but..." status updates. Maybe a quick note that expresses your concern for spreading potentially false information would make that person think twice about doing something like that in the future. Or, it might just make you feel better in the short term that you haven't let the comment go unaddressed. On the other hand, whereas most situations in life are improved by open and honest discussion, I'm sad to say that how people feel about the conflict in the Middle East doesn't seem to be impacted by any amount of honest dialogue. 

It seems as though your best option, oddly enough, is to be a passive observer. Take in the good, the bad and the ugly. Feel a sense of moral superiority if you must, knowing that you're not fueling the fire. Mourn for the tragedies. Do whatever makes sense to you in terms of donating/letter writing/rallying, but avoid publicizing your decisions if you really want to avoid tiffs with your friends.

Or, just read all the articles and hope that the situation improves soon.  As Noah Drezner, one of my Facebook friends, recently posted, "May we all rid hate from our hearts and actions. May we find a way to lay down our arms and find peace for all." So you see, there are some bright spots to be found online, too.

Be well,
Miriam

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