By Stephanie Goodling
On May 6, Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley welcomed Jessica Abo to its annual Spring Event to talk about her book “Unfiltered: How to Be as Happy as You Look on Social Media.”
President of Women’s Philanthropy Carol Bub Fromer announced this year’s new Lion of Judah, Carolyn Zelson, and new Pomegranates, Dr. Cheryl Shadick, Betty Mendelson, Elaine Rappaport-Bass, Dr. Jill Crosson and Danielle Kroo, before introducing the evening’s program.
“Tonight we have a special treat because not only is our guest speaker, Jessica Abo, a native of the Lehigh Valley, but we have a very special moderator who actually moved to the Lehigh Valley in 2017. A self-proclaimed fashionista by age of 7, Amy Oselkin transformed her passion for fashion and beauty into a writing and television career,” said Fromer.
Thanking all of the women philanthropists present, Fromer quoted from the children’s literature classic, “The Giving Tree.”
“This story is so relevant tonight because, ladies, you are all giving trees, and tonight is really an opportunity to celebrate you. For not only are you busy sustaining and nurturing the lives and well being of your friends and families, but you also give unconditionally to total strangers ... While you may never see the mouths you feed, the children you save, or the elderly you clothe, your donations are priceless and lifesaving to so many,” said Fromer.
Proud mother Aliette Abo then introduced her daughter, Jessica. Aliette generously sponsored gifts of her daughter’s book for all attendees. Jessica, in addition to being a Lion of Judah with her local Federation, gave a generous donation to the Lehigh Valley Federation’s Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs as well.
“I am very proud to introduce my daughter Jessica. Jessica has always tried to make a difference in someone’s life from an early age. She’s a changemaker,” said Aliette.
Award-winning journalist, bestselling author, philanthropist and mom Jessica Abo spoke with Oleskin in front of the virtual crowd about how she literally wrote the book on social media and its relation to happiness.
“My first piece of advice is to understand the whole notion of the link between our psychology and technology ... We actually have to train our brains to remember that what we’re seeing is not the whole story,” said Abo.
Asked how long we should really be on social media each day, Abo said it’s important to know why you are going online and to find what works for you to limit it.
“If you find that every time you go online you feel bitter, then it’s a good time to evaluate why ...There are ways you can be in control of your social media instead of your social media controlling you,” she said.
Abo doesn’t think that social media is all bad, however.
“Think about what you love, whether that’s reading, whether that’s writing, whether it’s science, whether it’s politics, and follow people who can be teaching you something new and elevate your love, because in life, I think we either evolve or we revolve. And social media can be that place where you revolve in this really negative space, or it can be the place where you take everything you do to the next level,” she said.
Talking about finding balance in life, Abo also spoke about why she is so involved with Jewish Federation. Citing the positive influence of growing up and seeing her parents so involved, Abo said, “To me, being a part of Federation, I got to see early on what a community can do when a community comes together ... This notion that there’s room for everyone at the table is something I saw my parents do from a very early age, and then being part of Federation, I learned how big that table is and how many people we can be serving through the great work we do.”
Abo touched on bullying, too, saying that she plans to tell her daughter when she’s older that “you can’t fix yourself by breaking everyone else.”
Ultimately, Abo summed up the crux of the situation well when asked about why so many of us are so obsessed with how many likes we get.
“I think it’s a matter of going back to the first thing, which is I don’t think that social media is the enemy here at all, I think loneliness is.”
She emphasized that it is important to go back to what really makes you you and makes you truly happy. But she also noted that sometimes there’s more help needed for people who are dealing with mental health issues like depression or who are dealing with a loss, and encouraged those people to know that they are not alone and there is help available for deeper issues.
Abo wants everyone to know, however, that they have permission to just sign off, unplug, unfollow or snooze anyone and anything that doesn’t make you feel good.
“You do not need to follow anybody who robs you of your joy or who is not good for your mental health,” she said.