The Facebook Diaspora*
Social network site takes its cue from the Jews
Some things are explicitly Jewish. Tablet Magazine, for example. A Serious Man. Israel. Synagogues! Fiddler on the Roof! Some really great things. Like Tablet Magazine, for example.
And then some other things are sort of … implicitly Jewish. Suggestively so. These things contain few if any direct allusions to the religion, the culture, or the people, and you can understand them without reference to their Jewishness. But the Jewishness—or, at least, certain characteristics that are typically associated and correlated with Jewishness—is there all the same. Seinfeld was implicitly Jewish. Certain New England summer camps with wacky Native American names are. Marxism! Many other musicals that aren’t Fiddler on the Roof!
To the latter list, add Diaspora*. The new social network site profiled today in the New York Times is being built to be the anti-Facebook: It will be free, its software will be open source (meaning anyone will have access to the code, and can alter it as they please), and, most important, it “will let users set up their own personal servers, called seeds, create their own hubs and fully control the information they share.” In other words, the byword of Diaspora* is “privacy.”
Except the real byword of Diaspora* is, well, diaspora. Its impetus is the widespread disappointment with the juggernaut that is Facebook—which, when it debuted six (only six!) years ago on select college campuses, was a model of discretion and user-control, but which has quickly warped into something more suited to marketers than to users. There is something special about the fact that when talented young people want to imagine themselves as standing up for themselves, on underdog terms, and trying to establish a better world outside of the corrupted mainstream, they immediately reach for the metaphor of the Jews, expelled from the Promised Land and forced to make do. Moreover, I would submit, it’s not entirely coincidental that—sorry to play the name game—three of the four founders are pretty obviously young Jewish men (and the law professor who inspired them is named Eben Moglen, and has done time at Tel Aviv U.).
Of course, few things are as implicitly and explicitly Jewish as picking fights with other Jews. Like, say, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.