10 ways that the internet has changed the frum community

haredi riotsWhen the internet first started becoming popular, most of the frum community thought it was another fad that they could do without and force others to do without. You had to sign forms claiming that you didn’t have it in your home to get your children in school, it was seen as a TV like item which could easily be banned. It was seen as a nuisance and then as a threat to the sanctity of the home, mostly because of porn. Then came the blogs and the web user generated content of web 2.0, the Rabbis and askanim screamed about the loshon horah and chillul hashem that these mostly anonymous forums allowed. Then came the fear of porn, the fear of mingling on facebook, and the fear that people were using the internet to have extramarital affairs. Only recently, did the Rabbis realize that the real fear is that the frum community is going to be turned up on its head because of the transparency that the internet has created. The internet is starting to unravel the community that used to be able to just shove everything under the rug. 

1) It’s harder to abuse children: It used to be easy to abuse kids, all you had to do was go to the right yeshivas and become a well respected rebbe who enjoyed giving a little more than chizuk and shoulder rubs during fahers to his students. The internet ruined it for the sex abusers, it’s made it impossible to hide. The second you lock your office door and even speak inappropriately to your best talmud, it’s going to wind up on the internet. In the early days, before the vast majority of the frum community believed it was possible, there was a clever network of support for these monsters. Anyone who spoke against an accused molester was literally hung out to dry. Moser, chillul hashem, loshon horah…you still see some of this talk, but as the gedolim lose their clout, more people are becoming open minded toward the possibility that sex abuse occurs in our insular community just as much as it happens elsewhere.

2) You can’t give a decent mussar schmooze anymore: If I had my high school mussar schmoozes on tape, all of those Rabbis would have been lampooned by the politically correct society of the internet. What Wallerstein said was nothing compared what we heard on a daily basis in yeshiva and pretty much all yeshivas are the same. Fire and brimstone mussar is probably going to only occur on shabbos when Rebbeim are sure no one is recording it. One of the joys of mussar is homophobia, racism, Jewish superiority, and liberal/goy bashing.

3) Gematria is dead: You know how they say that 78% of statistics are made up on the spot, gematria is the same thing, but with smart phones – gematria is literally washed up. As I’m sure statistics during shiurim are going to go as well. If you’re going to spew BS, you’re probably going to have to back it up with proper citation.

4) No one needs a Rav anymore: With unrivaled access to halacha, shiurim databases, Jewish forums, and the ever present Facebook, does anyone really need a Rav anymore. I don’t even remember when the last time I didn’t use the internet when faced with a halachic conundrum or shayala. Nowadays, people are more likely to turn to Facebook than their LOR (local orthodox rabbi) I wonder when communities will start to disband, because the minyan factory and halachic forums have replaced the need.

5) Everyone sees the hypocrisy now: It used to be that in order to find out about what some “gadol” said in Israel, you had to wait to read the edited version in the Yated or the raw version in the Forward. Hypocrisy used to be localized, you realized that the Rosh Yeshiva treated the full tuition kids differently, or that the rich guy in shul got kibudim more often than the ehrliche people. Nowadays, the amplification of hypocrisy is causing all sorts of folks to have crisis of faith. It’s literally causing swaths of people to debate their faith in Judaism when they realize that people who are considered the leaders of our generation are supporting criminals and not open minded enough to realize evolution in Judaism. The internet has literally made it impossible for hypocrisy to exist without having an ill effect. If some Rabbi says something offensive, people can find out about it and share it around instantly. Unfortunately, these leaders haven’t realized this yet and they continue to take their mesorah and use it to alienate thousands of Jews on a daily basis, further pushing folks away instead of bringing them in.

6) The cloud community forces people to rethink their ideas: One of the greatest and probably scariest changes to frummies is that the community in the cloud is way different than the communities on the ground. It used to be that the frum community could instill a sense of insularity based on the fact that communities were homogeneous. There were people who literally only knew people exactly like them and this meant that their views were never challenged. 20 years ago, yeshivish folks weren’t friendly with modernishe people and conservative Jews weren’t talking with chassidim. The cloud community forces people to rethink their lives in many ways and religion is a big part of that. If you live around similar minded people your whole life, how will you ever evolve and know yourself better. Of course, this undermines the ways of the community that was supposed to keep people in check and make sure the gedolim reigned supreme.

7) Assholes can’t just go on being assholes: One of the greatest things that the internet has done for the frum community is to force the assholes to confront their assholery. It used to be that when you didn’t give your wife a get, cheated the government out of millions of dollars, or abused someone, you had only a few people to face. Sure, The Jewish Press had a seruv listing against get-with holders, but no one had to face throngs of angry people calling for their beheading. There were no change.org petitions, angry bloggers ripping you a new one, or videos with folks who wrote songs about what an asshole you are. If you want to be an asshole, you’re going to have to fess up to it and this means that dishonesty within frum society will hopefully go down.

8) You can leave the path in peace: Going off the derech has never been easier, there is literally a vibrant community of folks who want to take their culture with them on their path of Judaic destruction. It used to be that you left, you didn’t look back, and you lost a lot of the good that you enjoyed from your former derech. The internet has made it so that the OTD movement is actually a movement. It’s not just a bunch of parents who are afraid that their kids listening to Metallica will lessen their emunah. The OTD community in the cloud is almost like the occupy movement in many ways, they speak out against things that pushed them off in an effort to make the frum community better for those who are still apart of it.

9) You are not alone: There are so many folks within the frum community who feel alone. They may be under financial hardship, emotional distress, troublesome marriages, abusive spouses, crisis of faith, suicidal, or debating whether or not to vaccinate their children. The internet has made it so much better for folks that think they are all alone in the world with their problems. No longer do people have to suffer in silence. The internet has dozens of communities for people to share in their happiness, stress, depression, misery, etc…It’s hard to pinpoint how many lives have literally been saved by the internet.

10) It’s easier to find naked frum girls: I remember about 15 years ago in Israel trying to find frum porn, it was next to impossible. Nowadays, thanks to the internet and webcams, it’s quite easy. It all sucks, but it’s good to know that the frum community is finally catching up in the sex department. There’s plenty of frum erotica out there, but finding quality images takes some good long google image sessions.

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