What Twitter Can Teach Us about Tisha B’Av!

July 14, 2010

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been taught to be careful with my words and how they can have long lasting ramifications. That said, being that we are all human, this is a very difficult topic to grasp, as our words are often just spoken and never really carefully and tactfully communicated. To that end, Judaism stresses the importance of not participating in slander, gossip, and so on and so forth. Indeed, seemingly every Tish B’Av,  thousands across the globe gather to view the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Tisha B’Av Video. This Video features different Rabbis who remind us of the Torah’s wisdom on human relations and personal development, and by extension, inspires the public to be aware of the far reaching effects that just even a few words can have.

Indeed, our Sages relate that the episode that led to the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash is recorded in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza. Unfortunately, the public undressing that Bar Kamtza received from the few powerful yet hurtful words of baseless hatred that was displayed towards him, led Bar Kamtza to walk right out the door and create a devious plan that would cause the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

In contemporary times, when you mention the ability to communicate in just a few words, many of us will think of Twitter. Twitter is a social networking tool that lets you easily follow other people and receive “Tweets” from this person. However there’s a catch!  Tweets are short messages that must be under 140 characters. Hence, you’ll have President Barack Obama making political statements on this platform or we’ll hear news directly from NBA All-Star Keven Dorant (see here) in which he announced his contract extension on Twitter. Both the politician and the athlete are limited to positioning their message in under 140 characters! And yet, Twitter has shown the world that even with just a few words, one has a powerful platform and can influence millions around the globe. Indeed, for making the wrong comments on Twitter, people have been fired from their position (see here)! Hence, if we ever needed a reminder of the power of just a few simple words, other than once a year on Tisha B’Av, this tool, used by millions on a daily basis, is a great way to keep this message on our “Spiritual Radar!”

Moreover, there are companies that are beginning to reveal to the general public that our words, yes even written, or in this case Tweeted, are in fact being watched from above, by not just the Almighty – but by corporate America as well! You see, PepsiCo’s Gatorade, Nabisco’s Wheat Thins or even Delta Airlines, realize what our Sages have known for years: that the collective words, comments, Tweets, or Facebook “Likes” can have a lasting positive or negative influence on society, or in this case, their brand. And so, as reported here:

“Gatorade is taking its social media strategy very seriously indeed – so much so that it has built a mission control center replete with screens beaming out brightly-coloured visualisations of what people are saying about it on the likes of Twitter…the room, in the center of Gatorade’s marketing department, contains six big monitors depicting real-time events in the social media ether. One screen is a representation of the tweets relevant to Gatorade, be they about the brand, its athletes, its competitors, or sports nutrition-related subjects. Another tracks and measures conversations across the blogosphere and allows Gatorade to conduct ’sentiment’ analysis around key topics and on product and campaign launches.”

Also see this Video:

Likewise, Wheat Thins “Crunch Control” monitored the Tweet of Tabitha Hancock and surprised her with enough Wheat Thins to feed an army! For more on the story see here and here.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the fact that Delta Airlines recently created a @DeltaAssist Twitter account to only further their Online Ears and show people that they’re listening to feedback, kvetches, and what not. Indeed, I’ve been traveling for several years and have heard other frequent fliers remark that they get quicker/better service through Tweeting their issue that they are having at GATE X or Y or Z, then if they’d have to call the airline or wait for a Gate Agent. Truth be told, this matter got national attention when Filmmaker Kevin Smith sent a series of exasperated Tweets claiming that he’d been kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for being “too fat”. Proving, perhaps, the speed at which Twitter can spread messages about your brand, his Tweets have been picked up by the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, ABC and other major outlets (see here).

All in all, while these businesses realize that every word, every character, can hurt or hinder their brand and image, it is incumbent upon us, especially during The 9 Days leading up to Tisha B’Av to realize that every word or character that we say can build or destroy the Beis HaMikdash! In so doing, may we merit to no longer celebrate Tisha B’Av as a day of mourning, but rather as a day of joy!

If you are on Twitter, feel free to help bring the Geula by keeping the message of Tisha B’Av on our collective screens! Use in your Tweets this hashtag – #mtjbrd = May the Temple in Jerusalem be Rebuilt in our Days.

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