Last night I had the privilege of moderating a panel of three brilliant marketers in front of about 150 attendees at Mashable's Social Media Day event in Jerusalem. About 25 minutes into the panel, I noticed one of the event organizers signaling for my attention. When I glanced at her laptop, my heart stood still. Our three missing teenagers had been found dead and discarded in a ditch.
As the words ברוך דין האמת (the prayer over tragedy) left my lips, I was faced with a deep moral dilemma.
We weren't even halfway through the hour long event. Should I announce the news and effectively end the panel and the event? Should I allow the panel to continue as if nothing happened?
On the one hand, the organizers and contributors invested a great deal of effort into this event. The attendees had taken time out of their busy schedules to learn and enhance their own efforts. The panelists had driven in from across the country. We were here to share our information and experience for the betterment of our industry and society overall. In a time of darkness, we were bringing light into the world. Would it be morally better to leave the people in the room in uninformed bliss, to give them a few more minutes of life without this tragedy on their shoulders?
At the same time, how could we continue as if nothing happened?
What I Did
I decided to let the panel continue, but to try and direct the questions and discussions towards positive topics such as cause marketing and the value of hashtags in starting or joining a movement. I also tried to prepare the room a bit by asking the panel for their perspective on sharing personal views, politics and beliefs on personal accounts when the public identifies them as brand ambassadors.
As the discussion continued, I noticed the faces of attendees as they caught news of our loss on their tablets and phones. One attendee buried their face in their hands, another's face turned dark red as they let out a deep sigh.
As the panel was drawing to a close, I realized I had to say something. I left off with the following message:
Social media has the power to bring people together. It connects us as people, on a human level. Social media has taught businesses that speaking at people is not enough, but real dialog and discussion on a human level is necessary for success.
Five years ago, I began planning my aliyah (immigration to Israel). I started by reaching out to strangers active in the Israeli tech scene. Using Twitter, Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn, you all helped me network my way around this industry. With the help of the many friends I made along the way, I found a number of fantastic career opportunities.
We have suffered an incredible tragedy. The world tonight has become a little bit darker. As we leave this event, lets not just think about the business applications of these discussions, but the many ways we can use these same tools to bring a little bit of light back into the world.
And then I bid my farewell, got into a cab, and finally broke down in tears.
May we never see such tragedy again.