Thanksgiving, as the name implies, is a time to give thanks and recognition to those people and things that one is thankful for. So as Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end, it is only natural that I sit in my room reflecting on the many things in life that I am personally thankful for. I am thankful for my friends and family who support me through all of life’s challenges. I am thankful to live in a country that allows me to practice my religious beliefs openly and freely. And I am thankful to my super, Ghelfis, who took the time out of his busy schedule last week to stop toilet water from dripping into my bedroom from the ceiling. One individual whose work I have admired consistently throughout the years, and would like to thank specifically is Mark Zuckerberg, the Founder and CEO of Facebook. Since April 17th 2005*, when Yeshiva University was finally zoche to received this ground breaking tool, anytime I sign on to Facebook (multiple times a day) I feel a sense of hakarat hatov to the man who changed social networking forever. Facebook has become an invaluable resource for networking, keeping in touch with friends, and dating. When the Orthodox Jewish community caught wind of this brilliant invention, it also changed the shidduch dating world as we know it. Facebook instantly allows one to find pictures of people, find out someone’s interests, determine someone’s chevra, and gives the stalker; oops I meant the searcher, the ability to contact anyone instantly. With such a powerful tool at the finger tips of tons of Orthodox bachrim and meidluch, you would expect the shidduch “crisis” to fix itself. However, despite all the good that has come from Facebook, it has also caused a new subculture of socializing, especially within Orthodox singles community. Although Facebook has every tool on the planet for stalking people, Mr. Zuckerberg, in his infinite wisdom, neglected to put a section on his site that discusses “Facebook Etiquette.” Facebook has many components and if I wanted to discuss every feature and its social ramifications, I will be here for weeks. However, I’d like to take the opportunity to breakdown just several common practices relating to Facebook and how they impact the shidduch scene. Mark can thank me for my work later…
Friending – Let’s talk about Friending, the most basic element of Facebook. Common sense seems to dictate that one should friend somebody if they know them or have met them at some point in time. No one is saying this person needs to be your best buddy, but there should be SOME type of connection. Recently, various people, guys and girls, have asked me if I know why an individual of the opposite gender would friend them if they have never actually met. This is a valid shyla! I approached some of these “serial frienders” inquiring why they feel the need to do this to which I got several popular responses:
1) “We have over 200 mutual friends on Facebook! Doesn’t it make sense that I friend him/her?”
Response: NO! What does one thing have to do with the other? I have 100s of friends in common with Michael Phelps, but it doesn’t mean that we are cronies! Similarly, if I see a smoking hot meidel in shul and find out her name from my friend who stalks her, and happens to be “friends” with her on Facebook, it doesn’t mean I have a heter or any concrete reason for friending her! This reason is: INVALID!
2) My friend told me that we have a lot in common so I friended him/her.
Response: Here’s a thought, why don’t you have your friend introduce you guys in shul next week. Just because your friend says that he/she likes to watch The Office, wants to make Aliyah, and also enjoys listening to The Beatles, and Facebook confirms all this information, does NOT mean that you are actually friends. KAL VECHOMER it doesn’t mean he/she is your long lost bashert. This NOT a valid reason to friend someone.
3) Facebook “suggested” we become friends.
Response: Facebook also suggested that I reconnect with my good friend who I speak with everyday, that I take a quiz suggested by my friends mother, and that I write on the wall of some guy I interned at the same firm with 4 summers ago and haven’t spoke to in years! Facebook “suggests” a lot of things, but it doesn’t mean I have to listen! Next time Facebook suggests that you friend the cute guy you have a crush on, but doesn’t actually know that you exist; my advice to you would be to ignore Facebook! Facebook is not Hashem, not a parent, not your Rav, or a good friend! It is OK to ignore something suggested by a social networking site! I promise!
These are not effective ways of getting yourself a date or getting a guy/girl interested in you! You are not using this valuable tool to your advantage; rather you are just putting more obstacles in your way to try to win this person over. Do yourself a favor and hold off on the friending until you actually establish some type of connection with the person.
Poking – What is a poke? What does it mean? Why did he/she poke me? Is this person some type of pervert? Why didn’t he/she just send me a message to tell me what he/she is thinking? Should I poke him/her back? These are the questions that come to the mind of anyone who receives a poke. Poking is an extremely risky move and it is not a recommended way of trying to build a relationship with somebody who you are looking to court. It comes across as creepy and triggers a myriad of questions in the pokee’s (the one who has received the poke) mind. It also make’s for a very poor story to tell the kids if you do happen to overcome the odds and tie the knot (Kid: “How did you and Aba meet?” Ima: “Well, Yitzy, Aba poked me on a regular basis and eventually I gave in and poked him back!”). My advice: Avoid the poke!
Messaging people you don’t know/coming on too strong – In business or the shidduch scene, coming on too strong is a huge turn off! In business if you are trying to pitch a service to a potential client and you bombard them everyday with e-mails, phone calls, and literature, you come off as sounding desperate. In the shidduch world if you start messaging people you don’t know on a regular basis, and the person isn’t responding in a timely manner, then do yourself a favor and ease up on the messaging. You are making yourself sound nebby AND creepy.
The other day a meidel messaged a friend of mine and they had the following correspondence:
You don’t know me, but my friend says we would probably have a lot in common and we should talk. I am from Woodmere. Where are you from?
Creepy Facebook Messager”
“Hi Creepy Facebook Messager,
I am from Englewood. Who is the friend?
Haha your funny! My friend is just someone I know who knows you. So I go to Columbia now. Are you in YU. I see you went to YU. You still there? What are you majoring in? If you’re done what do you do now? I went to Moshava! Where did you go? You look familiar? Maybe we met at an NCSY shabbaton! I do Yachad too! Do you do Yachad? I like helping people. You have AIM or gchat? My AIM address is CreepyMessagerGirl and my gchat is CreepyMessagerGirl@gmail.com. It is much more conducive to chatting then this. Lol. I like Facebook, but FB chat is so impractical. Hehe. Want to get together sometime? I have a car.
Creepy Facebook Messager”
This e-mail, to which my friend obviously didn’t respond to, was followed up by a friend request, and a poke. Listen, messaging is a great tool to follow up with someone you have recently met, have known for a while, or would like to know, however, sending a message to someone on Facebook who you don’t know, with the sole purpose of hitting on them is not a recommended way of engaging someone in social dialogue. Don’t respond to the question of “Have we met?” with an entire megilah that contains your life story, struggles, deepest fears, and your hobbies. Chill out, take a breather, and take one step at a time! No one is going to fall in love with you strictly because of one Facebook message!
Pictures – Pictures on Facebook tell a lot about a person. You can determine someone’s hobbies, group of friends, where they hang out, if they are self conscious or not, etc. My recommendation to people is to put up pictures that accurately resemble who you are and what you’re about. So many people try to hide themselves by untagging pictures of themselves. Many meidels only want pictures up where they think they “look good.” This is rather obvious when 75% of the pictures are from weddings. If you are a shtark bachur, but made an appearance at your best friends birthday party that took place at some shady bar in the village and every picture is with you surrounded by drunk frat guys giving the camera the middle finger, then it doesn’t matter if you’re wearing strymel because you are going to come off as very sketchy! You can be in the Rosh Yeshiva’s shiur and have a chevrusa 23hrs a day and you still won’t get a Darchei Binah girl to go near you (yes Darchei Binah girls check Facebook. Don’t fool yourself, that’s exactly why they keep their pants wearing friends around…to utilize their Facebook account). Conversely, if you’re the type of person who likes bar hopping and clubbing, but every picture of you is from a tiyul in Yeshiva with your tzitzus flopping around, then maybe you should put some more recent photos up. Speaking of recent photos, do yourself a favor and put up a picture that resembles how you actually look. Some individuals think they are going to fool the world by making all their pictures from the head up. You can play all the games you want with your pictures, but at the end of the day you’re not fooling anyone. If the bachrim/meidels haven’t realized that you’re fat, lazy, or not frum from your pictures, they will figure it out as soon as they meet you! Don’t waste your time and everyone else’s time by cropping and editing your photos and embrace who you really are!
Facebook friends vs. Real Friends – Although this isn’t an option on Facebook yet, it is very important to differentiate between whom you are really friends with and who you are merely “Facebook friends” with. Last year, I was walking onto the A Train and some girl approached me and said “Great album! Looks like you had such a good time!” As I was searching for a response to this girl, whose name I couldn’t remember, I realized that she must have been talking about my skiing trip to Wyoming several months ago. I’m well aware that there are probably 100s of strangers checking out my profile and pictures everyday and I am fine with this. I think it’s fair to say that most people that are on Facebook, register for the site cognizant of the fact that plenty of people who they don’t know and will never meet are checking them out regularly. Most people probably don’t even think this is an issue unless; they are approached by one of these strangers who admit that they are checking out their pictures. It is an unspoken rule amongst all Facebook users that you don’t tell someone you do not know that you have been checking them out. Its muttur to do so, but not muttur to admit to doing it. That being said, using the phrases: “Sweet new album!,” “You looked great in that bikini from your Florida pics!”, and “I didn’t realize you liked going to concerts as much as I did.” and various other phrases that refer to a stranger’s pictures should NOT be used as a pick up line! This will result in an immediate nisht by that stranger, and any hope and dreams that you may have had of building a bayis ne’eman with this person will vanish within seconds!
In summation, Facebook is a powerful tool, but the line between being defined as creepy stalker as opposed to a smooth shidduch dater, is a very thin one. If you play your cards right you can use Facebook to your advantage to help solidify and build relationships with girls/guys you’d like to date. With the amount of tools that Facebook offers you can easily use it to sort through people to find the bashert of your dreams! However, if you practice some of the bad habits that have been mentioned above, not only will you blow all chances you may have had with a particular eligible bachur/meidel, but you may also develop the reputation of being the sketchy serial friender and poker, who comes on way too strong, misleads the Facebook community with via their picture albums, and has fell so deep into the Facebook abyss that he/she no longer knows who is their real friend vs. who are people that they you just stalk on a regular basis.
May all of klal Yisroel use Facebook for only bracha and not as a klala! Amen!
* I remember this date because it was also my birthday. Yup, the anniversary of YU receiving Facebook is my birthday!