Religious 'Facebook' Is Destined to Fail

faceglatMany Americans do it daily, maybe even hourly. But signing onto Facebook doesn't sit well with some ultra-Orthodox Jews, often called Haredi Jews, who embrace modesty. Women cover their hair after marriage, men dress in traditional clothing. Men and women are separated in synagogues and on dance floors at weddings. Television, films, and secular newspapers may be greatly discouraged. Given that, it's kind of clear why self-involved, sometimes overtly sexy and showy social media like Facebook isn't really in step with the Haredi Jewish lifestyle.

That's why a 25-year-old Israeli programmer named Yaakov Swisa created FaceGlat, a Facebook-esque site that segregates men and women, blocks immodest advertisements and pictures, and uses a filter to keep language in comments and status updates clean.


Swisa seems to think of it as a way for people in his community to take advantage of the Facebook trend, without having to contend with all of the smut that can come with the original site. Well, hey, more power to the guy, but I think he's missing something here.

For one, the idea of having men and women separated online seems at odds with what Facebook-style social networking is all about. Think about it -- Mark Zuckerberg was inspired to come up with Facebook as a way to check out women at colleges outside of Harvard. To find out if they were single or "in a relationship." Whether or not it's now advertised as being a way for people to check out potential partners, stalk down exes, spy on their work place crushes, etc. is beside the point. That's what a LOT of people use it for and have since day one. But, sure, okay, I guess there are a few people who want to just go on and chat with like-minded people of the same background with whom they share a platonic bond. (Zzzz.)

Furthermore, Swisa says that if FaceGlat "encourages people to open [Facebook] accounts or waste their time instead of studying Torah -- it's a failure. It's not worth a thing. I promised myself that if that happened I would close it down." Ack. Well he better steel himself for the worst case scenario, because I'm sorry, but sites like Facebook are time-wasters by DESIGN! I'm not sure I see how Swisa thinks anything remotely like Facebook will directly translate to people doing anything but, especially studying Torah, unless there are Torah portion apps built in or some such. Or you can only write status updates that would make your religious leaders proud? (New notification: "Rabbi Kaufman likes this!") Or upload iPhone video of Shabbat service?

Maybe I don't get it, because I grew up completely Reform Jewish, and the ultra-Orthodox world is as foreign to me as it is to someone raised Catholic or atheist. Maybe there really are people out there who can utilize a site like FaceGlat and spend their time on there productively. If that's true, then that's awesome. I just can't help but think Swisa might be barking up the wrong tree.

Do you think Facebook-style sites are inextricably linked to "wasting time"?


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