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Orthodox Conundrum

May 1, 2023

An important issue raised by our increased reliance on social media is the question of what it has done to the quality of our discourse: that is, the things we say, and the way we say them. It seems that too often, a willingness to engage in casual cruelty has emerged along with the social media revolution; and this has a serious effect on the way we live our lives away from our screens. And, of course, it raises many issues regarding the halachic propriety of how we write and talk.

Is it a violation of Jewish law to write intemperate or mean comments on a social media post? How can we try to effect change in society without falling into a problem of lashon hara? How may someone express disagreement, and when is it right to reveal something on social media rather than hiding it? How should we relate to great scholars who also expressed disagreement by disparaging their opponents? Can a person who was wronged publicly shame his tormentor on Facebook, given that the post will be read by people who have no need to know about what happened?

And the questions transcend social media alone: when and how should we reveal damaging information that is important, such as before a shidduch? How can we teach a proper type of shmirat halashon without also giving kids the message that we don’t want them to tell us about things that happen to them, like G-d forbid abuse? Is there a way for a journalist to do his job and also follow the rules of lashon hara?

In order to receive answers to these questions, Scott spoke to Rabbi Daniel Feldman, Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University. 

You can purchase Rabbi Feldman's book False Facts and True Rumors: Lashon Hara in Contemporary Culture here.

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