A few days’ ago, I had a real shock. Someone I know told me that their child – who is the same age is my youngest – had been looking at a hard-core internet porn site. My first response was to pack my kids into my car, sell up, and try to find somewhere to live in the desert a million miles away from the nearest neighbour.
Once I realized there was nowhere to run to – everywhere seems to be infected, one way or another - my next response was to write a scathing email to our local list-serve, berating all the nameless parents who I felt take the whole ‘internet in the house’ thing far too lightly.
My next response, after I’d spoken to the local Rabbi, was to write a toned-down email to the list-serve – and a fire-and-brimstone article for the Breslev site. Boy, was I going to let all those nameless, irresponsible parents have it!
I was going to point out all the inconsistencies; all the problems with having internet in the house; all the arrogance that enables people to ignore their rabbis and decide for themselves that internet is somehow ‘OK’.
I sat down, and I wrote a whole big chunk of it; and then, Hashem made me pause for a minute to think. And as I started to think, I suddenly realized that writing a fire-and-brimstone article actually wasn’t going to get anything accomplished.
Hashem made me realize that most people, at least in their secret soul, already know that having the internet in the house is wrong, bad, problematic, and that it opens the door to loads of terrifying, worrying, horrible scenarios, both for them and their children.
None of us are stupid. We know that we’re addicted to our Blackberries; we know that we spend far too much time ‘working from home’ and ‘working on weekends’ and ‘working on holiday’ and ‘working in the middle of our anniversary date night’. We know that all the filth on the internet is far too hard for most people to resist, and that sooner or later, deliberately or not, it’s going to seep into our homes. We know we’re wasting our lives with Facebook, and with YouTube, and with Google.
But we don’t know what to do about it all.
And as I paused for thought, I realized that that is really the root of the problem. It seems to us, these days, that we really have no choice. We know the Blackberry is completely killing our home life and our time-off; we yearn to be able to say ‘I’m having a day off’ or ‘I won’t be available for a week’ – but we’re too scared to do it.
What’s going to happen if we’re ‘not available’? Maybe the client will get angry and go to someone else? Maybe we’ll miss the deal of a lifetime? Maybe something super urgent will happen, and we’ll be fired for falling down on the job?
These are all the thoughts that a person has when they don’t have emuna, and they believe that their own efforts are responsible for their livelihood.
Same with getting rid of the internet. How are we going to stay in touch with people? Find the best bargains? Know what’s going on in the community? Know what’s happening at the kids’ schools?
If we haven’t got emuna, these look like insurmountable problems. OK, none of us want our young kids to be looking at porn sites, G-d forbid, but what, really, can we do about it all?
The more I go on, the more I’m realizing that we don’t just need emuna for the big life-and-death, dramatic scenarios, G-d forbid. We need it for everything. Even the small stuff. Even for the ability to say: “I’m turning the Blackberry off for a day.” Or: “I’m limiting internet use to an hour a week.” Or even: “I have no idea how I can really cope without it, but I’m going to try very hard to not go near the internet for a week.”
These things are all a leap of faith. They all require a lot of Heavenly help and assistance and tons of emuna. They take a lot of effort, a lot of prayer, a lot of stepping out of our comfort zone, and a willingness to be different from ‘everyone else’.
But when the alternative is a society in which ‘religious’ eight year olds are swapping tips about which hard core porn site to visit, what choice do we have?