OpinionIsrael at War

Social media and the campus aren’t real life

To pour millions upon millions of dollars into combating a problem that isn’t that big of a problem seems foolish.

TikTok. Credit: Pixabay.
TikTok. Credit: Pixabay.
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is a senior educator at numerous educational institutions. The author of three books, he teaches Torah, Zionism and Israel studies around the world.

Judging by the sentiments expressed on social media and the college campus, the entire world stands against Israel. Unfortunately, many Zionists are judging such sentiments by what they see—or, more importantly, what they’re shown—on social media and mainstream media images and videos of the college campus.

This has caused many Zionists tremendous angst about how Israel is being understood by the world and the possible damage Israel is suffering. But social media and the campus are a mirage, a false snapshot of the world. Zionists are being fooled into unnecessary anxiety.

Fifty years ago, people learned about current events solely from mainstream media. This is not the case today. Almost half of all Americans use social media to get their news.

Social media companies cater to each customer’s personal interests. For reasons sociologists and psychiatrists would struggle to explain, Zionists are often more interested in bad news coming out of Israel than good news. As Zionists click on tweets, posts and stories that paint horrific images of an antisemitic world that opposes Israel, social media algorithms feed them more and more of these stories. In short order, Zionists become convinced that Israel has lost the “social media war” and, with it, world opinion.

But no one person’s news feed reflects “world opinion.” Throughout the current war, American support for Israel and its right to defend itself has stayed steady at around 80%. More importantly, the U.S. Congress has supported Israel in vote after vote. American public opinion and American elected leader’s opinions do not match the horrid stories appearing in Zionists’ newsfeeds. The angst over Israel losing the “social media war,” and therefore public support, was and remains unfounded.

This is also true of the campus situation. Zionists watched the horrible images coming from the campus demonstrations against Israel and saw a university conquered by antisemites. But each protest consisted of a few hundred people at most. Many of the protesters weren’t even students but paid outside agitators.

For example, Columbia University hosts more than 35,000 students. The Columbia anti-Israel encampment consisted of about 200 students. This encampment, despite massive news coverage, was not representative of Columbia students’ opinions on Israel. A recent study asked students to rank 16 world issues in order of importance. “Israel-Palestine” was ranked at 15. Clearly, American students aren’t anti-Israel, they’re apathetic towards Israel.

The understanding that social media and campus protests aren’t representative of American public opinion should be instructive. To pour millions upon millions of dollars into combating a problem that isn’t that big of a problem seems foolish.

Posting the truth about Israel on social media and countering college protestors isn’t a waste of time. It has its place. However, the Zionist community should lower its anxiety levels to be consistent with the actual problem.

There must be pro-Israel messaging on social media so Israel’s supporters know what’s actually happening in the world. Still, there’s no benefit in trying to win the “social media war” or the “war on campus” when the war is a mirage created by algorithms designed to worry us as we scroll through our news feeds.

Zionists should be spending their resources in important areas. They should be dedicating funds to helping soldiers and families in need, settling the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, and influencing decision-makers like members of Congress and the Senate by lobbying and volunteering for the campaigns of pro-Israel candidates. These are the “real” things that require the attention and time of Zionists around the world.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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