Forward Thinking

What's Wrong With These Selfies? Everything.

By Renee Ghert-Zand

There are many positive things about social media. Selfies, or photos of themselves, taken by young people at Holocaust sites and memorials are not among them.

The German version of Vice magazine collected and published a bunch of these totally tasteless Instagram posts to drive home the point. Don’t read German? No worries. You just need to know how to read pictures—and, of course, also hashtags—to understand just how offensive this stuff is.

Check out the one of the girl giving two mitten-clad thumbs up at Auschwitz-Birkenau. “Thumbs up if you’re chilly willy #krakow #poland #auschwitz # birkenau #tour #travels #holidays #chilly #willy #ww2 #worldwar2” is how she tagged it.

There’s also the one of the girl who lined up her photo to make it look like a Star of David was growing out of her head. “#juden #arbeitmachtfrei #treblinka #zyklon B #feelgood.” Hey, don’t we all feel good when visiting sites of mass murder?

How about the one of a couple of guys “#chillin in #dachau,” or the one of the girl in a mini-dress posing at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial making sure everyone notices the important stuff—the “#chelseaboots”—she’s wearing.

Which of these other photos taken at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial is more appealing? The one of the girl jumping for joy at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial exclaiming “#holocaustmemorial #berlin #blocks #jump #tourist #happy #girl #weeeee”? Or would it be the picture tagged “#instacaust”? Hmm. It’s a toss up.

Despite how absurd this stuff seems, it really is happening. Samantha French, a 20-year-old New Yorker studying at the University of Sussex in Britain reports that she saw people taking these kinds of photos while visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau in October 2012.

“…I saw a few tour groups just for school kids in which they were all taking pictures of themselves smiling in front of just about everything they saw, from the display of artificial limbs that had been recovered in the camp, to the wall in front of which many prisoners had been shot execution-style, to actually inside what remains of the gas chamber (despite a clear sign outside banning photography within the building),” she says. “In my own tour group, we had a couple who I think might have been Scandinavian who again did not put their cameras away throughout the entire tour.”

“In short, I think it’s disgusting,” French said. But, having studied the effects of social media, she isn’t surprised by this disturbing trend. “It is so easy to sway what people think of something just by joining a conversation about it on social media, and I think really that’s why this trend of people Instagramming photos of themselves by Holocaust memorial sites has become okay,” she explains.

“If one 12 year-old sees her friend do it when she goes to visit a memorial, she’ll think it’s acceptable to do that, as well, and so the snowball gets rolling. It’s just unfortunate that the people who know that making light of such serious issues is not okay aren’t as present in social media as kids with poor judgment.”

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Sheryl Sandberg's Plane Crash Narrow Escape

By Renee Ghert-Zand

getty Images

Facebook COO and bestselling “Lean In” author Sheryl Sandberg and her family narrowly avoided having been on the Asiana Airlines flight that crash-landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday morning.

Two people were killed and 49 seriously injured when Asiana Airlines Flight 214, a Boeing 777, slammed in to the ground just short of the runway on landing. There were “many burns, fractures and internal injuries,” according to a spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital, where six people were in critical condition. The remaining 307 passengers and crew members escaped unscathed or with minor injuries.

Sandberg took to her own Facebook page early Saturday afternoon to thank friends and followers who had been concerned for her and her family, and to explain that they had changed flights out of Seoul, South Korea at the last minute.

“Taking a minute to be thankful and explain what happened,” she wrote. “My family, colleagues Debbie Frost, Charlton Gholson and Kelly Hoffman and I were originally going to take the Asiana flight that just crash-landed. We switched to United so we could use miles for my family’s tickets. Our flight was scheduled to come in at the same time, but we were early and landed about 20 minutes before the crash. Our friend Dave David Eun was on the Asiana flight and he is fine.”

Frost, Gholson and Hoffman are Facebook employees. Eun, is a Samsung Electronics’ executive VP and head of its Open Innovation Center. He was one of the first people to send tweets from the crashed plane.

“Thank you to everyone who is reaching out - and sorry if we worried anyone. Serious moment to give thanks,” Sandberg added.

Sandberg’s prior Facebook posts were of photos of her in Seoul on her tour promoting “Lean In,” a manifesto of sorts explaining why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, and offering possible solutions for empowering more women, especially working mothers. Sandberg herself is the mother of two children together with her husband David Goldberg.

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When Gorgeous Israeli Soldiers Go Bad on Facebook

By Nathan Jeffay

facebook

When Israeli female soldiers get saucy, some Israelis can’t help but applaud. Columnist Halleli Jabotinsky published newly surfaced photographs on her blog, and declared that they actually performed an “important service” by humanizing the Israeli military and also looked “cute.”

In the photographs, which went viral in social media, new recruits exposed their thongs under their uniform, and in a separate image posed in helmets and a tiny amount of combat equipment.

The military has disciplined them, but over at Haaretz Allison Kaplan Sommer has some sympathy for them as young women “who don’t necessarily have any desire or natural aptitude life in the military, but are doing their duty, and decided to relieve the boredom in a silly way.” She wrote: “If these girls were living the life their American peers, they’d be just another bunch of airheaded sorority sisters pushing the limits of good taste on Facebook. Sure, their campus might be buzzing about them, but the Washington Post and New York Times wouldn’t be into their business.”

But army bases aren’t the same as university campuses, and anybody who cuts these girls slack for their very feminine prank should check that there isn’t some patronizing gender-politick at work.

Jabotinsky’s views, which are common, are underpinned by a chauvinistic attitude towards female soldiers. She would have us believe that they should be applauded for looking good, and that they did well by illustrating to the world that girls, even in the IDF, will be girls. The subtext is: What do you expect from women; leave the real soldier-work — the serious stuff — to the men. But in the army rules are rules, uniforms aren’t to be sexualized for public consumption on social media, and nobody should praise soldiers for doing so — even if they think, as Jabotinsky does, that it ultimately gives the IDF a good image.

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Obama's Israel Trip: The Logo

By Renee Ghert-Zand

getty images

In marketing, they say that branding is everything. And apparently there isn’t anything these days that can’t be branded — including a presidential trip to Israel.

Believe it or not, President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Israel already has a name, and an official logo to go with it is in the works. “Unshakeable Alliance” (*brit amim *, or alliance of nations, in Hebrew) is not just some security operation’s code name. It’s the Israeli government’s first-ever attempt at all-out branding of a visit by a foreign head of state.

With Obama’s past comments about the United States’ “unshakeable commitment to Israel,” and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks about an “unshakeable bond” between the two countries, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to come up with “Unshakeable Alliance.” However, deciding on the official logo seems to be a bit more complicated.

In a savvy public relations move, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is calling on Israelis active on Facebook to vote for their favorite of three logos commissioned from different graphic artists by the PMO’s National Information Directorate.

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The 1 Billion User Man

By Seth Berkman

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is proud to be a 1 billion user man.

After the social network hit the 10-digit mark for users, Zuckerberg said he was “humbled” by the power of connecting poeople.

“Helping a billion people connect is amazing, humbling and by far the thing I am most proud of in my life,” Zuckerberg, who was raised in a Reform Jewish home, said in a blog post.

On a “Today” show interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer last week, Zuckerberg said he was aiming for an even bigger audience.

“There’s 5 billion people in the world who have phones, so we should be able to serve many more people and grow the user base there,” he said. Facebook also has 600 million mobile users.

Zuckerberg said Facebook is ready to pump more growth from smart phone users.

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What Says the Cynical Palestinian?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

A new Israeli social media meme caught my eye yesterday. Although it was in Hebrew, I felt as though I had seen a version of it in English at some point. It reminded me of the “Unimpressed Native American” meme. You, too, may have come across this meme in your Facebook feed recently. It’s the close up black and white photo of an elderly Native American man in traditional dress. Superimposed on it are cynical and ironic messages like, “The banks take away your home and land from you? That must be tough.”

Instead of a Native American, the Israeli meme has an elderly keffiyeh-wearing Palestinian man staring at the camera saying the same kind of things, only in the Israeli context. It became apparent once I did some digging, that the similarities are not coincidental. “It was the result of an idea by Eli Levin to create an Israeli version for the ‘Unimpressed Native American’ meme,” Shahar Even-Dar Mandel wrote me in an email from Tel Aviv. “After some brainstorming in a ‘secret’ Facebook group, named Oumipo, that included other Israeli meme creators Amir and Shlomit Mahlab Schiby, Itamar Sha’altiel, Ido Kenan and Avgad Yavor, as well as Eli and myself, the concept and the particular photo to be used were chosen,” the 40-year-old physicist explained.

The “Cynical Palestinian” says things like:

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Israelis Heart Iranians, and Vice Versa

By Renee Ghert-Zand

The satirical TV show, Eretz Nehederet, spoofed the Israeli-Iranian love fest meme.

If you weren’t on Facebook this weekend, then you probably missed a huge love fest going on between Israelis and Iranians. As would be expected, the governments of the two countries were not proclaiming their undying devotion to one another. Rather, it was ordinary Israeli and Iranian citizens who were expressing mutual admiration and a hope that war between their two nations can be avoided.

It’s amazing how quickly good will and gestures of solidarity can spread in the Internet age, even between peoples who generally have nothing to do with one another. On Saturday night, two graphic designers, Israeli couple Ronny Edry and Michal Tamir uploaded photos of themselves superimposed with a logo saying, “Iranians, we will never bomb your country. We ♥ You” to the Facebook page of Pushpin Mehina, a small preparatory school for graphic design students. In no time, others were copying the meme and the Facebook page garnered a thousand “likes.”

No sooner had the Israelis started posting their own versions on the Facebook and the “Israel Loves Iran” blog, than the Iranians came up with their response. By Sunday, they were uploading photos with the logo, “ We ♥ You, Israeli People. The Iranian People do not like any war with any country.” While some posted personal photographs, others utilized historical examples of benevolence by Persians and Iranian toward Jews. One was of a photo of the Mausoleum of Esther and Mordecai in Hamadan, Iran. Another was of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, the “Iranian Schindler” who helped 2,000 Iranian Jews flee France during the Holocaust. Yet another had the seal of Cyrus the Great, the ruler of the Persian Empire from 600-530 BCE, with the tolerant proclamation: “I announce that everyone is free to choose a religion. People are free to live in all regions and take up a job provided that they never violate others’ rights.”

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