More than a decade ago, when I was still in London, I remember reading the story of some South Korean man who’d become a legend in his own time - online - by becoming the leading player in one of those addictive online games like ‘World of Warcraft’, or some other soul-destroying tosh.
Online, this man was king of his internet world; he had people admiring him from all four corners of the planet; he was super-powerful (online) and had acquired all these (online) abilities to bestow magical powers to other players, come to their rescue, and generally create the world as he saw fit (online).
In his real life?
He was a hamburger ‘chef’ who’d had to move back in to his parents’ home as he’d run out of money to pay his bills, and his parents were urgently trying to get him admitted into some psychiatric institution somewhere to start treatment for the internet addiction that was destroying his real life.
That’s how there came to be a whole story in the papers about him, because the dichotomy between who he was online - emperor of the world! All-powerful king-maker! Savior of thousands, hero to many more - was in stark contrast to who he really was: a guy with severe mental-health issues who had very little to actually show for himself.
The poor man.
THE WORST SINS IN THE WORLD ARE 'NO BIG DEAL' ONLINE
We all know internet porn is bad (but I suspect most of us are still in denial about just how many of our husbands, sons, brothers, fathers, friends and neighbors have fallen into its net, even in the most ‘frum’ neighborhoods…)
And we all know that watching trashy movies is bad (see note above).
And we all know that opening up a channel into our soul for people to fill it with all their terrible anti-true Tzaddikim, anti-God, anti-yiddishkeit rubbish is bad (see note above).
But it doesn’t change the facts that so many of us are still doing all this stuff, all the time, mostly oblivious to just how much damage it’s actually doing to us, spiritually.
It’s so easy to do the absolutely worst sins in the world online, and then to think it’s no big deal.
It reminds me of another story I read, this time within the frum Jewish community, of a pillar of the local community who got busted for viewing really disgusting things online. This man had tried to make teshuva - anonymously - and he’d written a piece explaining how he’d got sucked into those darkest spiritual places in the world because his yetzer kept spinning him the story that what he did online wasn’t really real.
I mean, no-one could see him. He was completely anonymous. No-one else, not even his own wife, really knew what he was up to.
ONLINE 'ANONYMITY' WAS NO PROTECTION
Until that one terrible day when the police finally managed to figure out how to collect the IP addresses of all the ‘subscribers’ to that particular piece of satanic handiwork, and came knocking at his door.
(It’s SO easy for motivated people to find out who the 'anonymous' people online really are, these days.)
The people who get addicted to gambling online have the same problem: their yetzer tells them it’s all just make-believe, online no-big-deal-fun - until the bailiffs come knocking and they end up losing their homes.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s something that I recently read in The Hustle Economy, by a game designer called Alex Larsen:
“I saw semi-frequent posts in my newsfeed about another player losing their house, or going bankrupt from medical bills. Our game was free to play; we made money only through selling special ‘premium’ items.
“Essentially, people were spending money for pixels on a screen, and some of them were spending in the hundreds.”
Who would be dumb enough to waste their hard-earned money, and to risk their real-life homes just to be ‘king of the world’ online?!
That’s what we like to think when we read stories like this.
THE YETZER HAS ALL SORTS OF 'TRAPS' SET UP ONLINE
But the yetzer has traps set up for everyone online. And the one that I see so many frum Jews falling into is the one about speaking and accepting and sharing lashon hara - particularly about the nation’s biggest Tzaddikim.
Back in the desert, Korach et al were consigned to permanent oblivion in Gehinnom for talking badly about Moshe Rabbenu, the tzaddik of the generation. Even 1500 years later, an Arab guide took a tanna to the crack in the desert where you could still hear Korach and his followers proclaiming that the Torah of Moshe Rabbenu was true - and that Korach had made a huge error of judgment that he was going to spend eternity paying down.
It’s instructive to note that in that story, God warns the people of Israel that everyone should move far away from the people who were talking badly about the tzaddik of the generation - because they dragged everyone down to the depths with them.
Their spouses, their friends, their neighbors, even their kids - they all got swallowed up by the earth for associating with Datan and Aviram, and all those other people who made a big name for themselves by speaking badly of the nation’s true Tzaddikim.
Who would be dumb enough to wager their house for an online game?
Who would be dumb enough to wager their eternal soul for an online ‘discussion’ where they freely diss a whole bunch of the nation’s leading Tzaddikim?
The mind boggles.
But in the meantime, we need to stay away from toxic sites that run on lashon hara and evil speech. Hopefully the people behind them will make sincere teshuva before Hashem’s patience really runs out, but in the meantime, protect yourself from their madness and stop visiting these dens of ill-repute online.
MAYBE, IT'S TIME TO BLOCK THOSE 'TOXIC' SITES?
If that’s hard to do (and it’s also hard for me to do, so I really hear you) - consider using something like ‘Site Blocker’ which is a free, safe add-on for Chrome that lets you block sites that you know are toxic, but (like many other toxic things…) are strangely addictive.
I started using it last week, and I feel SO much happier!
Let the South Korean fast-food guy be ‘King of the World’ without you…
You’ve got better things to do with your time.