Is it time to break up with Facebook?
This September, I joined the Jewish Women’s Archive as Communications and New Media Specialist. In this role, I edit the blog (submit here, writers!) and manage JWA’s social media channels. Lately, I’ve been thinking about JWA’s relationship, as a Jewish feminist nonprofit, to the corporations and organizations we sometimes inadvertently support. We’re all guilty of utilizing the services available to us without examining the implications of our patronage, myself included. So… let’s examine, shall we?
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, JWA is on Facebook! Using the site, and engaging with all of you, is extremely valuable; we can share information about historical and contemporary Jewish women in order to spark dialogues about the issues that impact all of us today. We can hear from you, the people who make our work—the amplification of Jewish women’s voices and histories—possible.
However, I won’t ignore the role Facebook played in disrupting the 2016 election, or the most recent report that the corporation shared users’ private messages with Netflix, Spotify, and others. I can’t disregard the New York Times report detailing how Sheryl Sandberg led the effort to discredit Holocaust survivor George Soros by employing a consulting firm that weaponized anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. I won’t brush off the NAACP’s call for a boycott of the social media company following a data breach that targeted people of color. All this considered, I think it’s important to scrutinize the ethical implications of our Facebook presence.
In short, I want you all to know that this is something I’m thinking about as JWA’s social media manager. The irony that we, a Jewish organization, are posting about Jewish women on a platform that used anti-Semitic canards to smear a Holocaust survivor is not lost on us. Are we still on Facebook? Yes. Do we feel icky about it? Definitely. Do we plan to stay on Facebook for now? Yes, and I’ll tell you why.
As I said, being on a platform like Facebook allows us to interact with you. We can share the stories of Jewish women who have done incredible things, large and small, whose accomplishments might otherwise be left, dusty, in the archives. Through the site, we’ve seen dialogues blossom about important and at times difficult-to-discuss topics, like this one. Unfortunately, Facebook is still one of the primary spaces in which discussions about history, religion, politics, and culture happen. Leaving Facebook would mean pulling out of those conversations, which we very much want to be a part of.
For these reasons, our love/hate relationship with the social media giant is one that will continue for now. As a small nonprofit, we often rely on the platforms and services provided by larger corporations to do our important work.
Unlike with Facebook, however, there are some companies we can more readily distance ourselves from, if only slightly… which brings me to Amazon.
On December 12, Stuart Applebaum of The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) stood outside the NYC City Council building ahead of a hearing regarding Amazon’s plan to build a second headquarters in Long Island City. To a group assembled in front of the building’s steps, he declared, “No one can call themselves a progressive if they ignore Amazon’s abuses.” He’s right.
The Jewish Women’s Archive is a Jewish, feminist organization concerned with social justice. I believe we have to walk the walk. After all, fighting for economic equality, workers’ rights, and transparent business practices are feminist aims.
Although JWA may seem far outside Amazon’s orbit, and while it may be impossible to cut ties entirely, I am of the mindset that there are actions we can take to live our values more fully. On the Book Club section of our site, we no longer link to Amazon. Rather, we send readers to IndieBound, a collective of independent bookstores from which you can purchase books directly, or use to find your local indie shop. We have added a link to the top of our 2018-2019 Book List encouraging visitors to find our recommendations at their local libraries, and have provided them with a search tool to do so.
These are small actions, and it’s nearly impossible nowadays to divest completely from corporations like Amazon and Facebook, but even the smallest changes make a difference—even the tiniest pebble dropped into a pond creates ripples.
The question is, are these “ripples” enough? When I showed an early draft of this post to a JWA coworker, she raised some important points: “Can you condemn and call out the abuses of companies like Amazon and Facebook, while still patronizing their services? Or, can such an approach only be seen as hollow, and disingenuous?”
I hope that this essay, and this approach to these difficult issues will be seen as earnest. I believe that writing this piece and starting a conversation is in and of itself an important, positive first step. The truth is, without going “off the grid,” it’s very difficult to live in this modern world 100% ethically; we all rely on companies and industries that do harm. However, justice work isn’t all or nothing. It’s a Sisyphean task: forever ongoing. I hope you will join me in aiming higher, thinking more deeply, and speaking out.
How to cite this page
Long, Rebecca. "Is it time to break up with Facebook?." 27 December 2018. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 21, 2019) <https://jwa.org/blog/is-it-time-to-break-up-with-facebook>.