Facing overwhelming criticism for platforming Russian trolls and selling out millions of users’ data to Cambridge Analytica, as well as facing the challenge that it’s becoming irrelevant and uncool, Facebook is always trying to find new, friendly, and innovative ways to distract us from their slow but inevitable creeping towards global domination. In the past, this has taken the form of personalized birthday, holiday, or “friend-niversary” videos and slideshows, and, of course, the inauthentically cringeworthy birthday email “wishing you the best” from “all of us here at Facebook.” A year ago, Facebook began letting users type keywords that cue various animations, such as balloons, fireworks, thumbs up, flying stars, and hearts.
It used to be that those of us who wish to express our kvelling in more haymish terms had no animated shtick to accompany us. Not anymore! Type “mazel tov,” and, just like with “congratulations,” cutesy animation will ensue.
A brief survey of the target demographic, though, revealed that the social media platform has fallen short in gaining popularity among the tech-savvy Jewish millennials and gen-Z-ers to whom it tried to appeal with this update. “It’s kind of neat,” said Raphi Simonson, 16, from New Jersey, “but I doubt anyone will care a week from now.” Gidon Kaminer, 18, from New York, shrugged. “I honestly didn’t notice. Even my mom didn’t, and she spends all day on Facebook.”
If Mark Zuckerberg really wants to make inroads with his fellow members of the tribe, he’ll have to try harder. How about a facepalm or shrug every time you type in an “oy vey”? A dismissive hand wave for “dreck” or “bubkes”? Tears and smileys for “verklempt”? Or, if we’re going more modern, then maybe a wave or surfer thumb for “sababa”? Regardless, there’s a good deal of gesheft to be done in that area.
Theo Canter is a graduate of Abraham Joshua Heschel high school in New York, and will be attending Oberlin College after spending a gap year on Kivunim.