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Fear of YouTube
Mom with a View

Fear of YouTube

Imagine your life being broadcast online to the world.


Poor John Edwards. Not only was he caught on camera as he combed his hair for an inordinate length of time, but he had the misfortune to have someone play "I Feel Pretty" of West Side Story fame in the background -- and circulate the clip on YouTube.

YouTube is our modern candid camera -- without the scripting. Anyone filmed -- anywhere and at anytime -- risks seeing it broadcast online to tens of millions of users. It can be funny, clever and destructive.

Watching the John Edwards piece (there's a little of the voyeur in us all), I was struck by YouTube's potential power to embarrass and by its vast reach. And I was reminded of the mishnah in Ethics of Our Fathers that admonishes us to "Know what is above you: An eye that sees, an ear that hears, and a book in which all your deeds are recorded."

We tend to forget that the Almighty is watching. We fool ourselves into thinking He won't notice the small things (or the big things!). We act like children, shutting our eyes and thinking the Almighty can't see us if we can't see Him. But, as YouTube demonstrates, someone is always watching.

If we knew the way we treated others would be shown on the big screen, would we modify our behavior?

It's sometimes hard to make fear of God a concrete idea or experience. But how about fear of YouTube?

If before every public action we imagined that it would be filmed and shown on YouTube, if we knew the way we treated others would be shown on the big screen, would we modify our behavior?

I think I would.

I don't think that's what done on YouTube is fair or particularly nice. I think it's always important to remember that today's perpetrators (you're laughing now) could be tomorrow's victims.

But I do think it's a good lesson for all of us. It's too easy to cut corners when we think no one's looking. It's too easy to walk away from responsibility. It's too painful to confront our weaknesses and mistakes.

But imagining that today's actions could be broadcast online tomorrow (or sooner) is a powerful incentive to behave with kindness and caring. It's a tangible tool for connecting with fear of God.

John Edwards is still lucky. He was just caught looking silly. But that's not always the case. Not every video of our lives has "I Feel Pretty" as an accompaniment.

April 21, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) renee, April 29, 2007 1:25 PM

Some of my coworkers teased me that they'd put me on YouTube

My coworkers are immature/silly, uncultured, not well-educated instructors. One suggested during lunch,(in the presence of our supervisor) that they follow me,making sure to film my bookcart, even in the subway & then put me on YouTube.They all began to laugh.I didn't know what they were talking about, so I didn't reply. I frequently ignore their comments. After reading your article, I now understand.I haven't eaten in the lunchroom since and I avoid them like the plague. Some of their behavior stems from underlying feelings of inadequacy,jealousy, feelings of inferiority because I am better educated & more mature. (I don't think it might be sprinkled with a bit of anti-semitism, although one of my Italian-Catholic friends believes it could be.)As they haven't seen much of me, they've gone on to find another "victim".

(3) Paula, April 26, 2007 10:10 AM

We need to take this to heart.

I read this story and it really made me think about my choices and often the choices of others. I think too often we think God is only a part of our life when we ask Him to be there. The truth is he has been and is there all of the time. he's all knowing, all seeing God and it is so important for us to treat others the way he would like us to...with kindness, compassion, love, etc. and know it please Him as he watches.

(2) yehuda lev, April 26, 2007 9:00 AM

closer than you tube is your teachers

your actions are known. even the rabbis perceive the daily challenges amongst the rank and file of their congregations. when you see the Rabbi, elders and spiritual giants, they are aware of your challenges by spiritual insight and if an individual is aware of this and has not desensitized him\her self, than emabarrasment as a prevention will, hopefully, be a regular event in ones life.

(1) Joey, April 24, 2007 12:32 PM

I imagine this blog post was written a while in advance; if not, there would have been an even better example for kindness: Alec Baldwin.

God bless.

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