How We Get The Technology Meta-Question Wrong
This morning, I spoke on a great panel for Jewish Professionals offered by My Jewish Learning. I was one of four panelists, including my colleagues, Rabbi Daniel Bogard, Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, and Rabbi Tobias Moss. It was great to get to chat with these colleagues about how to create community online and the many different paths we've taken in doing so.
I realized as we were talking that likely the other Jewish professionals on the call would feel pressure to pick up these technologies; after all, we were practically waxing poetic about how to cultivate community on Twitter or how to maximize accessibility using OBS. I began to become convinced that people would leave the webinar and immediately try to join these platforms and replicate what we've done. We so often ask the question: how can I incorporate this technology into what I'm already doing?
That's exactly the WRONG question, and not only a wrong question, but a destructive one. It will burn you out faster than you can send a Tweet because it will only add things to your plate. More things to manage, more things to create, more platforms to learn. And your time is finite.
So what are the right questions? The RIGHT questions are:
What are the gaps in my community and what technologies can help me address those gaps?
What is burning me out as a leader and how can technology help simplify or take some of those tasks off my plate?
What are others already doing better and more efficiently and how can I use technology to ally with them and pool our resources?
What do we wish we could do if we only had the resources and what resources do we have in abundance?
These are the questions that will get us the answers we want and show us what technology to use. Not every rabbi needs to be on Twitter. Not every community needs to integrate Zoom with OBS. We just need to be smarter at identifying what our community's needs are and then figuring out how technology can help us serve those needs.
For example, my community is a small community scattered over a wide geographical area. I am constantly fielding offers for help or requests for help. It's horribly inefficient and I'm not the best person to play matchmaker. My question should be: What technologies can help me connect my community so that they can help each other without me playing the middle man? Perhaps it's a community internet forum. Perhaps it's Facebook Groups. Now I have a concrete technological solution to begin to research because it meets our needs.
These technologies are not good or useful in and of themselves. They are only useful when they meet our needs or our community's needs. So the first question we need to ask ourselves is what those needs are, and we can only get there by listening to ourselves and our communities and using technology (or using a non-technology based response) to respond to them.