Saturday, April 09, 2011

Stop pestilencing me!

Children today make me laugh. Particularly my children. Please allow me this little story.

My boys were having a fight. There was physical contact involved, and my younger son; he is six, ended up with his nearly twelve-year old brother's fist in his stomach. I wanted to know the hows, the whys, and the wherefores, so I brought the boys, and their nine-year old sister (who was a witness), into the living room for the big discussion.

The oldest shared his side of the story. The younger boy shared his. Then the girl told me what she saw.

As I was doling out the necessary punishments and lectures, the six-year old started shaking with laughter. Laughter that was causing tears to roll down his face. I had to know what was so funny. So, I asked him to please tell me what was making him laugh. His answer was simply that his brother had been "pestilencing" him.

As his mother, I felt that it was necessary to correct him. I told him gently that he must have meant that his brother had been "pestering" him, not "pestilencing." Then, becasue I am not one to let a learning opportunity pass by, I asked my six-year old to tell me what "pestilence" is. He told me quite proudly that pestilence is one of the plagues. I asked him to please be more specific.

"Pestilence," he said, "is a sickness. Like a giant bug."

The minute he said the word "bug," I knew what he was telling me. He was telling me that his brother had been BUGGING him.


I think his Sunday School teacher should be very, very proud.

Loshon Hara and social media

Social media sites make it so easy to keep in touch with friends and family, and even let you widen your circle of friends. But, they also make it very easy for your life to be discussed. If what is being discussed was a post on a social media site, is that discussion loshon hara? I have seen the most intimate details of people’s lives on facebook pages, and entire conversations in the form of “tweets.” These life updates are put out there in a very public forum for the world to see. When does it become “gossip” to discuss these updates? 

I suppose that if you are discussing such an update on the owner’s page, it is not being said behind his back because he can participate in that discussion. But, if one takes what they read on facebook and talks about it around the water cooler at the office, is it talking behind one’s back and therefore loshan hara?

Of course, the argument could be made that when one posts an update to cyberspace, one is accepting the fact that this update will now become common, and very public, knowledge. On the other hand, the poster could be working under the impression that such posts will only be seen by 657 of his closest friends.

So, where does that leave us? If I see a post that concerns me, and I mention it to someone other than the original poster, have I just participated in loshon hara? Or was it already public knowledge? What if the person I spoke to was also a “friend” of the original poster? Can it be assumed that the person to whom I am speaking has seen the same post and therefore is part of the “inner circle?”

Nothing changes the fact that speaking behind someone’s back to cause them harm or mar their character in any way is not an acceptable action. But, at what point should a person take responsibility for their use of social media? If you put it out there, aren’t you expecting, even hoping for, a discussion?