It took a while for the Federation paper geared at senior citizens to catch up with my original post last year on half Shabbos.
For those arriving from this half-journalist story based entirely on anecdotal evidence on half-shabbos, know that this is not a message board or chat room. (The older not-in touch author cannot tell the difference.) Comemnts are good, but please read the rules for comments.
An anecdotal article is not usually good journalism or even news, especially for a Federation secular and liberal readership. It may deserve a back article as human interest or as reporting a buzz, but without statistics it is not front page news. But this topic is perfect for a paper who editorial slant for a secular audience runs the gamut from right wing Conservative to left wing Modern Orthodoxy. In a prior article from this same author on the phenomena of Evangelical Orthodox rabbis- the author could not tell the difference between new age and Evangelical.
It seems I cannot live down that original short post and its sequel half-shabbos again?
In the meantime, it has been re-posted on over 1250 FB walls and many tweets. Let me know the best of what people are saying. Also for some we can see how people are using this as a Rorschach image.
In the meantime, I first noted the phenomena with the younger gen y/ millennials – those now 24-27 about 5 years ago. But they still kept it quiet and felt it was a deviance.
Not so, the younger gen z – those in HS now are those who cannot live without their phones.
We do need real studies but it does seem that a high % of mainstream Modern Orthodox FFB kids from committed families are texting on shabbos right now in 2011. This may be a short term blip. Statistics on BT’s, Public school youth, Bais Yakov and year in Israel may be different.
We need to note that it may be a passing wave. It may peak for a certain number of years and we cannot assume that current pre-teens will continue the trend.Without hard statistics it is hard to pin it down. Is it peaking now or getting worse? Many trends tend to be over by the time the media picks up on it.
We need an empirical quantified study if we want to talk about it as a social phenomena.
Why do they do it?
1] Some are truly addicted to the dopamine of computer use, as are some adults. I was told that Rabbi Abraham Twerski has observations on that aspect.
2] For others, it is like telling them not to talk or communicate for 24 hours and they feel trapped. Many of general newspaper articles on teen’s today emphasize that aspect.
3] For a small percentage this is a rejection of shabbos and relgion. Some of it is permanent.
4] But for most they will outgrow it with time. Bear in mind that adolescent rebellion is normal.
5] For some it is peer pressure- all their friends are online. Personally I think this is the biggest group. It is like not being shomer negiah.
6] For others, this is no big deal. Either because the social media age is not in their hilkhot Shabbat books, so from an anthropology perspective it is not categorized. It is still neutral. Or because they consider it a small item. They already know that they are not following every detail in their hilkhot shabbat books.
7] For many this eases the burden or boredom of shabbat observance.
8]Finally, for some it is compulsion and escape. Kids need to contact their boyfriend or girlfriend, or escape the family by contacting those outside of the family.
In all of these, dont assume it is permanent. A kid may do it in 10th grade and then give it up by the end of 11th.
It is interesting that no parents were quoted in the article. Besides the fact, that the author of the article and editors dont have kids in HS anymore, what would be the parents perspective? Last decade they complained their kids were too frum. What are they saying now?
Other issues that thicken the plot:
1] Much of Centrist orthodoxy is based on popular culture, media, and social media.Even the youth group activity and outreach is media based.
2] Shabbos is just not exciting for them. An adult shabbos table with adult guests who whine about taxes or tuition is boring. And long Shabbos afternoons or late Friday nights are dreadful bondage in a parent’s home. Those who were attracted to Orthodoxy between ages 20-35 find community, warmth, and connection in the shabbos table and that was Orthodoxy’s success these past 30 years. But that is not fun for a hormonally raging teen.
And somehow the game of RISK is no longer in. There is less of go out and amuse yourself. All amusement is now bought, done via media, or designed by companies like Disney.
3] There really is a technology gap, in which books and study will all be done online before we know it. It needs to be solved ASAP. Someone will need to take Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach to a new level.
4] Currently, there is no Orthodox youth culture that can turn to something to make them superior to their parents. There is no new Hasidut, Mussar, new learning Style, or spirituality to serve as a goal. For many this seems like a problem of the religious coldness of the community.
5] The religiosity of the parents is not as “ideal halakhic” as the rabbis and ideologues want to make it. It is not the lax or indifferent parents but the average even in an above average community. Much of it with real or perceived justifications: I need it for work, I am ill, my case is special, I asked my pulpit rabbi, my youth adviser said it was OK 35 years ago, I read it somewhere in a book, the sale wont go through, i was hot so it was medically needed.
What did I miss? What are the comments of FB and twitter?
For the dictionary- Is the correct spelling half-shabbos (with dash), halfshabbos (one word) or half shabbos(two words)?
Update- from the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education FB page
“Perhaps it would be valuable to teach the value of self-control in the context of smart phone usage. Kids would get that very quickly.”