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Kenahora, Dude: Why I Knock On Wood Before Bragging Online

(Graphic by Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

We are all complicit in shouting our truths on social media at full volume and thinking that it’s fine. I’ve played along for years – turning my mommy freelance boredom and procrastination problems toward my need to connect with others and to zone out by going deep down the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram rabbit holes. I put effort towards my online self for sure, sharing my writing projects and weirdo observations and, of course, pictures of my family and I doing picturesque things.

But lately, I’m at an oversaturation point. I’ve been having this confusing existential feeling that if I don’t post a picture or say something cute about what I’m doing, then it’s almost like it didn’t happen.

New channels create new customs, but really, WTF? Ten years ago, did you show your vacation pictures to this many people? When did 673 people have to know that you went apple picking in the fall, sledding in the winter, to Disney in the spring and to the beach in the summer? Can you imagine being in your lobby at work and shouting to everyone waiting for the elevator what you were listening to on your headphones? How is this now considered okay?

I know for sure that my departed Jewish Bubbies would be mortified with all of this straight-up bragging.

“I know for sure that my departed Jewish Bubbies would be mortified with all of this straight-up bragging.”

Yes, people have always figured out a way to boast, even before Instagram and Facebook. But Jews, given our history of persecution and knowing that usually we were the most hated people in the room at any given time, knew to try and keep it humble and not talk brazenly about any good fortune we might be experiencing in front of our neighbors and in front of God.

There is, however, this sneaky loophole called “Kenahora.” It’s Yiddish (duh), and translates very loosely to “knock on wood.” The thinking went that by saying the phrase following any brag (usually about children or grandchildren and followed inexplicitly by spitting) that you would be are safe from the wrath of the Evil Eye because God will protect you. Nice, right?

So are we just kenahoraing all over social media by occasionally remembering to say that we are #blessed, or alluding to it by only showing the photogenic moments, assuming that we are somehow safe from the world’s many evil eyes? Can we just not help ourselves because we feel so much pressure to keep up with our FB friends, who may or may not be our actual friends?

Given the number of terrible things that happen to people everywhere, everyday, every minute – natural and manmade disasters, illnesses and accidents, things that ironically the internet makes us more aware of and more anxious about than ever before – I don’t think we have any business bragging about SQUAT. We should be knocking on all kinds of woods and looking around for any possible protection.

And yet we all do it because we are numb, bored and scared of empty space. We create these curated customized lifestyle magazines online, taking cues from the celebs we follow. We want to capture moments from our lives, for ourselves and maybe our friends from high school, but we want them to be the best ones with the filter that makes them even better, the flattering ones of our asses, the Christmas card-worthy ones.

Why hasn’t all of the information we absorb and disseminate made us more humble rather than less? My guess is that the constant noiseless noise online is making everyone shout louder to drown each other out and therefore not letting us see and hear what we are really doing to each other.

I know it makes me sound old to fret about it, but I do think fondly about time BSM (Before Social Media). It was a quaint era when we weren’t constantly making out with our phones. We looked up when our partners called our names. We walked in a straight line from our house to the subway without doing the texting loll to one side thingy people do now. We slept better, and we were more present. Maybe we got less done, but we did more with less.

I know we’ll get through this giant transition together, just like my great-grandmas and grandmas and mom got through living life and raising kids with their own technology challenges. (Radio? Television? Faxing?) Maybe it will soon regulate or at least feel normal again to talk so much and promote so much and share so much, but, for me, I’m thinking that I need less discussion and chatter and talk of myself and more of something concrete and real that doesn’t leave me feeling so empty.

Maybe someone (my son or daughter, Kenahora) will create an app to protect us all from our own online hubris.

Filed under: Tech

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Mallory Kasdan

Mallory Kasdan is the host of MILK Podcast: Moms I’d Like to Know. She is also the author of ELLA, a children's book, and has been a professional voice actor for television and radio for over 15 years. She writes essays about parenting and has produced arts & culture pieces for public radio. She lives in Brooklyn with her family. Check out her work at www.milkpodcast.com.

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