Image: Hands typing on laptop. Mug saying “Keep calm.” Photo by Pexels/Pixabay.
Some people use social media to torment others. Some use it to deceive others. Some use it to manipulate. And there’s no denying that it is useful for all those evil ends.
However, I believe that social media has great potential for good. It can be a way to reach out to others, to support others, to connect with others. It has changed the world several times already. It can help people band together to tell the truth and to do good deeds.
One of the traditional prayers that closes the Amidah reached out to seize me this morning as a prayer for my use of social media:
- My God, guard my speech from evil and my lips from deception.
- Before those who slander me, I will hold my tongue; I will practice humility.
- Open my heart to Your Torah, that I may pursue Your mitzvot.
- As for all who think evil of me, cancel their designs and frustrate their schemes.
- Act for your own sake, for the sake of your Power,
- for the sake of Your Holiness, for the sake of Your Torah;
- So that Your loved ones may be rescued, save with Your power.
- And answer me. – Mishkan Tefilah, p 180.
On the surface, this prayer may seem to say, “Dear God, please help me be a doormat.” That is not what it says. Bear with me, and let’s look deeper.
“My God” – This prayer is directed at God. If that’s problematic for you, try substituting, “My best self” or “Reaching beyond myself.” This is a prayer about reaching beyond what comes naturally to us.
Line 1 – I want my speech to serve good, not evil. I will be truthful.
Line 2 – I will strive to be active, not reactive. I will stay centered.
Line 3 – Centeredness doesn’t come easily, but I have experienced it through my study of Torah, and I will continue to study. Mitzvot (sacred duties) guide me along that path; I will continue to practice them at this keyboard.
Line 4 – There are people online and in the world who dislike me and who behave badly towards me and towards others. They make me angry and I want them to stop it. (I’m putting this politely. Feel free to insert stronger language as works for you.)
Line 5 – 6 I recognize that I am only one person, with one point of view. I don’t really know what is best for everyone. However I want the best for everyone. So I hope that God, or a Higher Power, or the Good will prevail over me if I’m not right in a particular case.
Line 7 – This is serious stuff. People are suffering, or will suffer. I desperately want there to be less suffering.
Line 8 – I stand up and say this to God and to the Universe: I want action!
This is a prayer about knowing exactly my place in the scheme of things, understanding what I am and am not capable of knowing and doing. It’s a prayer for the kind of humility that can make things happen. It’s a prayer for being the kind of person I want to be, including a reminder to myself that I am not always right, but that I hope for the best.
I say a prayer like this not because I think God is magic and if I say prayers, things will magically happen. I say a prayer like this to remind me of the person I want to be, the person who is centered in Torah and doing good in the world. It’s easy to lose track of that goal unless I remind myself regularly with prayer.
Words are important. They are powerful. They can build dreams, or they can destroy a life. I pray for humility and care in my use of words, today and always, so that I may do good and not evil.