Can You Be Proud of Your Google Profile?

Wine is not only good for the heart, but drinking it very well may reveal what is in your heart that you didn't intend on sharing with others. Our Rabbis understood that nichnas yayin, yatzah sod, when wine enters, secrets come out. A little l'chaim can remove inhibitions, dispel shyness, and generally cloud judgment.

On the one hand, that is why wine is associated with Purim. It is a holiday of integrating the revealed and the hidden, that which is on the surface and that which is buried beneath. However, on the other hand, it is also one reason why Judaism looks so unfavorably on the misuse and abuse of alcohol and why we must be so careful, cautious and vigilant over the holiday of Purim not to drink inappropriately or irresponsibly.

In many ways, the internet parallels wine. Both are intoxicating and addictive. Both can be used to advance friendship and camaraderie, or God forbid if used without mindfulness, can lead to ignoble and dishonorable activities and consequences.

The internet has done remarkable things in drawing out hidden aspects of people that might otherwise remain latent and buried. Sometimes, this can be for the good. For example, I know a number of people who in person are shy, reticent, withdrawn and quiet. And yet, in their online personalities such as through twitter, facebook or a blog, they are outgoing, opinionated and sometimes even quirky. However, in other ways, the anonymity of sitting behind a monitor seemingly alone can provoke curiosity and seduce almost any individual to access sites, pictures and places they should be staying far away from.

Just this week, Google implemented major new changes to their privacy policies, including the integration of how you use their search engine, what you watch on youtube, your gmail account, and more. In other words, until now, each of those services operated independently, but now, they talk to one another and what you search for, the topics of your email, the videos you watch are all integrated so that google can create a total picture or profile of who you are and what you are looking for.

Many have objected on legal grounds claiming this new policy invades our privacy. Indeed, 36 State Attorneys General have written to Google to register their concern. But, interestingly, a number of articles have appeared claiming that the general public is very upset for a very different reason.

You see, many people have very segregated lives, at least in their own mind. They have their email and the 'kosher' things they search for or watch on youtube that they would be comfortable with anyone discovering. But then, a surprisingly high percentage of people also have a secret, private world of sketchy, inappropriate and graphic material that they search or watch and that they don't want anyone to know.

Under this new integrated system, if a woman is innocently searching for something on google, it may pull up results reflecting what her husband had been emailing or watching on youtube the night before. As you can imagine, this has many people anxious and concerned.

Though secular society often espouses the opinion that looking at immodest material is benign and no big deal, the truth is that porn addiction is a growing phenomenon and a damaging and destructive one at that. I, and many of my colleagues, have counseled serious situations of marriages dissolving and families destroyed over this horrible malady that does not discriminate in its seductive ways between men and women, religious and irreligious, those on the left and those on the right.

A relatively new website, www.guardyoureyes.com is an excellent resource for, as they say, "Maintaining moral purity in today's world."

As we approach Purim, the time has come to be like google and to integrate our lives so that we don't have a personality on the surface and a hidden lifestyle buried underneath. If you struggle in this area, don't be ashamed or despondent. It is never too late to conquer an inclination that relentlessly pursues almost everybody.

L'chaim to a wonderful Purim for you and your family. May the month of Adar bring the simcha of feeling whole and may we all lead integrated lives that we can be entirely proud of.

Good Shabbos and a freilichen Purim