Few things have done more to fan the flames of sinat chinam than Facebook.

A little while back, I stuck up THIS POST identifying the four ‘cardinal sins’ that are the foundation of sinat chinam, or baseless hatred, and the reason we’re still all stuck in this awful, never-ending exile.

To recap, Rav Ofer Erez identified that the four ‘cardinal sins’ associated with sinat chinam are:

  • Jealousy
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Hakpada (harsh judgment against others)

In that post, I introduced you to the very useful sinat chinam matrix that I’m using to identify when I’ve got a whole load of geula-preventing bad middot going on in, in connection with particular people, and that post also has a really useful ‘how to stop hating people’ visualization exercise.

So what are we going to look at today, I hear you ask?

Great question!

Today, we’re going to examine which bits of our Facebook use are playing into the four ‘cardinal sins’, and probably delaying geula a whole bunch.

Don’t stop reading now and turn off: If you can use Facebook and not fall into the trap of these four cardinal sins (i.e., you’re just using it to buy cute mitpachot or to send your faraway mum pics of her latest grandkid etc) – then by all means continue.

But if you can’t, then surely that’s something that needs to be acknowledged and worked on, instead of shoved under the carpet?

I know it’s really hard, I really do! I’m also full of the four cardinal sins, which is why I’m trying to figure all this stuff out in the first place, because I really want geula already, and it’s such a shame that I myself am still delaying it with all my bad middot and judgment calls.

So, let’s work together to figure out what’s really going on, and what we need to ask Hashem to help us sort out, here, when it comes to being on Facebook.

Let’s start with the first cardinal sin:

JEALOUSY

Girlfriend, can I ask you something?

When you see that perfectly turned-out Seder table, those perfectly matching kids, that perfectly beautiful sunset over the beach your friend took on holiday, or that perfect smile the happy couple are giving each other on your friend’s Facebook page – does it make you feel the teeny, weeny, tiny, itsiest bit jealous?

Because when I was seeing that stuff – even a little bit – I invariably got more than the occasional pang of ‘their life looks so good and my life sucks’. Now, we’ve already established that I have issues, but here’s the first place to check if your Facebook use is holding up Moshiach:

Do you feel a small twinge of envy or jealousy, when you’re looking at other people’s posts and pictures on Facebook?

On to the next cardinal sin:

ANGER

When someone writes something on Facebook that you strongly disagree with, or that presses your internal buttons, or that simply contains so much hatred, contempt and disdain for other Jews, other people that it makes you feel actually sick to your stomach – is that causing you to feel ANGRY at the person who wrote that stuff?

Or, causing you to feel ANGRY at the people who are agreeing with it all so gushingly (and SO contrary to even the most basic laws about lashon hara…) in the comments section?

Do you feel ANGRY when someone recommends a restaurant or a venue where you had a really bad experience? Do you feel ANGRY when you realize some of your friends had a party they didn’t invite you to, or a group experience that you weren’t part of, or a lucky break that you didn’t get?

Do you feel ANGRY when the neighbor is showing off her 10th kids when you’re still finding it hard to have number 1? Or that your friend has a nicer house than you? Or that her husband seems so much cuter, wiser and more caring than yours?

If you answer ‘yes’ to this question:

Sometimes, I feel angry that people have stuff and / or experiences and / or relationships and / or popularity-influence-friends  that I haven’t got, and / or are saying things that I find very upsetting and offensive in public.

Then Facebook is probably holding up the geula in your household.

On to the next cardinal sin:

HATRED

From my own experience, hatred is what happens once anger has kind of simmered down. I’m no longer actively boiling mad at that horrible post / comment / whatever the person made three months’ ago, but now even just seeing their thumbnail pop up makes my face tighten into a grimace.

(Yes, I have someone specific in mind as I type this – like I said, I also have a lot of sinat chinam stuff I’m still trying to identify and get rid of…)

Then, I have to fight back the urge to type something nasty… or to wish something nasty on them… or even just to stop thinking nasty thoughts about them (more on that in a moment) – and because they’re all over my Facebook feed, it’s really really hard work!

So here’s the next thing to ask yourself:

When I’m using Facebook, is there anyone whose thumbnail or name makes me grimace? Are my eyes narrowing whenever I come across that person? Do I feel warm and fluffy feelings when they pop up, or the opposite?

Again, this can be pretty subtle, so pay close attention to your body language.

If you mouth tightens, or your eyes narrow, and you find yourself focusing a little too intently on  a person (and not in a good way…) – chances are pretty good that if you dig deeper, you’ll probably find at least a little bit of hatred hiding out underneath.

On to the last cardinal sin:

HAKPADA (HARSH JUDGMENT)

I mean, really?! What are these people doing posting up pictures like that? Or writing things like that? Or making comments like that? Or sending me links to this stuff?!?

What’s their problem?!? Don’t they know just how:

  • Retarded
  • Judgmental
  • Evil
  • Inappropriate
  • Coarse
  • Nasty
  • Stupid
  • Retarded….

They sound?

Don’t they realize how yucky they are making me feel? Don’t they realize what a huge chillul Hashem they’re doing, what a terrible sin they’re committing, how horrible they’re actually being?!?!?

Ahhhh, hakpada.

Man, do I struggle with hakpada.

I can read one dumb comment, one expletive-filled rant, one slightly ‘off’ post – and then completely diss a person’s whole character about it, regardless of whether the issue is truly mostly with them, or (more likely….) with myself and my own issues.

The whole world is a mirror!

That’s what the BESHT taught. That’s what Rebbe Nachman emphasized.

When I go round seeing the bad in people, the only reason I’m still seeing it is because that bad is actually in me, still. We can’t catch it in ourselves, so God shows us that ‘idiotic’ poster, the judgmental commentator, the nasty tweeter, the ‘holier than thou’ blog writer – and before we know it, we’ve judged the whole person by that one ill-advised bad move they made on social media.

And guess who else we just judged?

That’s right….ourselves.

Because we also sometimes do and write and say dumb stuff, and thoughtless stuff, and offensive stuff, and self-righteous, arrogant stuff and needlessly upsetting stuff.

Hakpada, I’ve come to realize, is when we make global judgments about the person being bad, instead of just the action being bad.

So, this is the last question to ask ourselves, on our quest to stop Facebook from ruining the geula:

When I see that upsetting / retarded / dumb / insulting /offensive / plain evil post on Facebook, do I write-off the whole person behind it, or can I see that while the POST is bad (and least for me…), the Jewish person behind it still contains an awful lot of good?

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