Saturday, October 6, 2012

One billion strong, and growing

This Monday, October 1st, Facebook announced that they had eclipsed one-billion users! This is an astonishing achievement and they are to be commended for their stunning growth. The chart on the right shows their growth over their very young career. And watch for their continued growth as they get their smartphone and mobile device strategy in place.

Think about the last time you were with some people – how many pulled out their smartphone to check Facebook? It’s almost epidemic how everyone (and I mean everyone) continually checks Facebook. It’s no longer relegated to pre-teens and college kids. Here in Florida the number of retirees is huge and they are on Facebook all the time, looking at pictures and texting while they sit and kibitz in Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts. It’s especially interesting (and dangerous) when they Facebook while walking or outside enjoying their favorite beverage.

Let me offer another note of congratulation to Facebook; unless you have a technical IT background you have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to support and serve this growth. Think about this as an example: I like to cook and made General Tso’s spicy/sweet vegetables with fried catfish last night for Mary Ann and myself. This Wednesday I’m making Greek lasagna for 40 people. Ramping up from 2 to 40 is a job in itself. Now imagine making dinner for 500… for 5,000. Building and maintaining a computer environment for this many users are unbelievably complex and costly. When was the last time that some piece of your personal technology locked up and crashed? The last time Facebook crashed was Friday, September 24, 2010.

In celebration of their one billion users, Facebook produced a video for the first time in their short but meteoric history. I would really encourage you to watch it, carefully reflecting on its message.
Listen for these key phrases;[1]

·         Open up and connect with people

·         A place to get together and share

·         Where they belong

·         Makes us wonder if we are alone

Either accidently or purposefully, Facebook has taped into something deep within all of us. There is a universal need for meaning, purpose, acceptance, communication and community. It’s built into our DNA, part of who we are and the way that God made us.

Here are three quotes to consider[2]:

·         Lee Iacocca, the legendary carmaker, wrote in his autobiography: "Here I am in the twilight years of my life, still wondering what it's all about…I can tell you this, fame and fortune is for the birds."

·         Bertrand Russell, the famous mathematician, wrote to Ottoline Morell, one of his mistresses, and confessed: "I have a very internal & terrible spiritual loneliness."

·         Dallas Willard said, "Meaning is not a luxury for us. It is a kind of spiritual oxygen, we might say, that enables our souls to live."

In the rat race called life in the 21st century, we all hunger for it; to be loved, to be accepted, to be known. And Facebook has provided a simple yet powerful way that tries to address this deep, personal need that we all have. Isn’t it a good feeling when someone sends you an “Add Friend” message?

But we’re all able to hide behind Facebook; only posting what we want others to see. How many of us read about how great everything is, yet knowing the truth behind the mask is completely different. I was connected with a family through Facebook that continually boasted about how much they were in love, how wonderful their kids were, how great their lives were. Yet knowing them behind Facebook revealed a marriage and family in trouble, a husband that thought his wife intellectually and emotionally inferior, kids getting kicked out of school, getting fired for non-performance. I eventually had to “unfriend” them; it was just too painful.

And for all the good that Facebook can do, it still comes up woefully short in meeting our deepest, most personal need to be loved and accepted just as we are. No matter what we’ve done, no matter what’s been done to us, we all ache to be known at the deepest levels, to be loved and cared for.

Jesus once met a woman at a well and had an amazing encounter and conversation with her[3]. Not only did he treat her with respect, he saw through her mask and the mess she thought was life. While her life and choices were destructive, they were completely open to him and his response was one of deep love, caring and restoration, bringing her back to her creator and God.

Jesus offered this woman exactly what we want and urgently need; an open and completely transparent relationship. Not just with a friend, but with our creator and God. Face it, we are all in need of friendship, forgiveness and restoration. Jesus is the only one in all of history that claims to be able to give us what we so desperately alludes us.

If we’re willing to hit “Add Friend” on Facebook, why do we hesitate to “Add Friend” for Jesus?

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith. This article is taken from a message entitled “Facebook Community Church” which is also a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1] Facebook video can be found on YouTube at

[3] John 4:1-42

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