Raising “Awareness” Isn’t Always a Great Idea

In recent times, “raising awareness” has become all the rage, while “shoving things under the rug” is now a universal evil. I wonder if we may have gone a little overboard by removing the rug entirely. 

By Miri Isaacs 

I can still see my high school principal standing in front of the lunchroom where the entire school was assembled for an important announcement. 

“This is a request from the hanhalah. We have thought the matter through and would like to ask that everyone refrain from calling into the conference line.” 

Huh? What conference line? thought one student, who may or may not have been me. I guess if I don’t know about it, that’s a good thing and I will continue on with my merry, conference-free life, she did NOT then decide. 

Instead, her thoughts went something like this: What conference line? It seems like a lot of people know about it if it already got to the hanhalah. I’d better ask around to find out what she is talking about. 

It wasn’t that big of a deal in the end. It was just a phone conference with girls from different schools shmoozing on it, but I wonder what High School Principal would have thought if she knew that her gentle request was what got people interested in it in the first place. 

In recent times, “raising awareness” has become all the rage, while “shoving things under the rug” is now a universal evil. I wonder if we may have gone a little overboard by removing the rug entirely. 

Most would agree that being cognizant of the problems that plague society, knowing how, when and where to get help when needed, and what to be wary of in a variety of circumstances, is a good thing. Society has definitely benefited in many ways from all the awareness. By now, however, we may have reached a point of “too much of a good thing.”

“Awareness” seems to have crept over to the side of boundary-less. People are being encouraged and applauded for sharing their deepest and most personal experiences with the public, and the public is eating it up, calling it bravery and the epitome of emotional health. While a problem shared is a problem halved, a problem broadcast sometimes leads to a problem multiplying exponentially. Aside from the tznius aspect (which is a glaring issue), people hearing all this new information are applying it liberally to any area of life that suits their needs. 

In one incident, a young teenager was complaining on a public forum that her parents were asking her to do a lot of work at home. She was gently made aware of the issue of parents “parentifying” their children. Not that anyone was accusing her parents of doing that, but they were just guiding her and letting her know that the concept exists. Imagine the chaos that ensued once the 14-year-old discovered that giving her baby brother a bath was something her mother had “no right” to ask her to do. 

Another, maybe more destructive, scenario was created when toxic relationships became a hot topic through an “awareness campaign.” People were breaking up decade-old friendships left and right! “I was almost another victim,” Miriam admits. “Relationships are flawed. Of course, I was able to recognize some of the less-than-perfect traits in my best friend (of nine years!), but I know she could’ve said the same about me! I’m sure glad she didn’t take the article to heart!” 

This is the awareness I want to create. Now can we please leave the rug where it is? 

Reprinted with permission from Binah magazine. Subscriptions to Binah magazine are available through [email protected].

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