"What Would Jesus Say to... Series 3" part 2
What Would Jesus Say to... Mark Zuckerberg?
by Greg Hanson

It’s the number one social network service in the world. Since it’s launch in 2004, it’s become a driving force on the Internet. In fact, at a value of $41 billion, it’s the third largest US-based web company behind only Google and Amazon. And it’s not just in the U.S. or in Canada; it’s a worldwide phenomenon, currently employing about 1,700 people in offices in 12 different countries around the world. What am I talking about? You know it, you love it… it’s Facebook.

This past month (January 2011), Facebook surpassed 600 million users including many of you… perhaps most of you. Just to put that in perspective, that’s more than the entire population of Canada, the U.S., the Caribbean, and Central America combined. In fact, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world behind only China and India.

So what is Facebook? Facebook is a social networking website that allows you to communicate with your friends, display photos, connect with people with common interests, carry on live chats, follow your favourite celebrities and organizations, play games, and add a wide variety of other applications or apps. Some people spend hours on Facebook each and every day, mainly catching up with current friends and reconnecting with old friends.

When Facebook was first on the rise, that’s how people tried to sell it to me. They told me I had to sign up in order to reconnect with people that I may have lost touch with. My general response was that there was a reason I lost touch with some people. Of course I was just joking… mostly.

But they were right. When I finally did sign up I immediately began to reconnect with old friends… people I went to college with… people I knew when I lived in South Dakota… even some of my old friends from elementary school and junior high.

Right now I have 230 registered friends on Facebook. Which isn’t bad, considering I very rarely actually send out friend requests myself. I don’t like to impose myself on others, so I generally wait to receive friend requests. I guess that goes back to some childhood insecurities or something. So I figure I’m doing pretty good to have 230 friends.

My wife… she has 340 friends. I checked out some of your accounts, too…

Eva – 224
Amanda – 234
Kathy – 523
Sara – 950

Of course, one of the privacy features on Facebook is that you can block specific people from even seeing that you have an account there. I suppose you might want to do that with an ex or if someone has been stalking you.

But did you know that there’s actually one profile on Facebook that you can’t block? It’s the profile that belongs to Mark Zuckerberg. Trust me… I tried. Three times. You can’t block the creator of Facebook from your Facebook account.

If you know the history of Facebook, you know that it was originally developed and launched by Mark Zuckerberg and a few buddies in a dorm room while they were students at Harvard. That was February 4, 2004, seven years ago last Friday.

Within the first month, over half of the Harvard undergraduates had signed up. So in March, 2004, Facebook spread to universities like Yale, Standford and Columbia, then on to other universities and colleges throughout the United States and Canada. It became open to students at high schools, too, before finally in 2006 becoming available to anyone—whether they are a student or not—as long as they are aged 13 and over.

Of course, with the success of Facebook, Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard. But it doesn’t seem to have hurt him any. As of 2008 he was the world’s youngest billionaire. There have been at least three books that have been written with Zuckerberg or Facebook as the subject matter. [The Facebook Effect:The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, (2011), Public Parts, and The Accidental Billionaires]

He’s been spoofed on The Simpsons and on Saturday Night Live… in fact, he was just on Saturday Night Live a couple weeks ago. But wait… there’s more.

•    In 2010, Vanity Fair identified Zuckerberg as number one of the list of the top 100 “most influential people of the information age.”
•    New Statesman magazine in the U.K. did a survey last year that identified Zuckerberg as the 16th most influential person in the world.
•    And Time magazine named him the 2010 Person of the Year.

There has even been a major motion picture made about Zuckerberg and Facebook called The Social Network, which was the big winner at the Golden Globes last month.

All this and Zuckerberg’s only 26 years old! (born May 14, 1984)

Oh, and by the way, have you ever noticed that the dominant colour on Facebook is blue? Yeah, it’s kind of hard to miss. Well, Zuckerberg has a red-green colourblindness, so the colour he sees the best is blue. And that’s your trivia for the day.

But you can see just how much of an impact Zuckerberg’s Facebook has had on our world. And of course, Facebook is not alone. There are other social media sites, too, like CyWorld, Mixi, YouTube, MySpace, and the very popular Twitter. In fact, here’s a collection of some of the social media sites that are out there… [PowerPoint]

Last week on CBC, they did a feature about how these kinds of social media sites are giving new insight into what’s happening in current events, specifically in Egypt. During the uprising there while actual news crews were being attacked and prevented from covering the story, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube with live video streaming from cell phones became very important tools in the hands of the protesters.

Okay, so why all this about Zuckerberg, Facebook, and social media? Because we’re in a series about what Jesus would say to some of the famous people in our world. And today we’re talking about “What Would Jesus Say to Mark Zuckerberg?”

First, I’m going to give you five things that Jesus might have to say to Mark Zuckerberg. And then, once we get through those, as a bonus I’m going to give you five more things that He just might say to you and me about this whole subject of social media. Okay? Let’s get going, and you can use your notes to follow along and fill in the blanks.

What Would Jesus Say to Mark Zuckerberg?

1.    You’re right; connecting with others is vital in life.

Facebook describes itself with these words…

“Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you.”

If you go to the Facebook page on Facebook—yes, there really is a Facebook page on Facebook—then you’ll find this description of what Facebook is all about:

“Giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”
~ Mission of Facebook

[PowerPoint] Here’s Zuckerberg is talking about this mission before a live audience. This idea of being connected is powerful. It’s one of our basic needs… to be connected to others. Some people may seek out those connections more than others, but even the most introverted of us have an innate need to know and be known… to love and be loved.

Ephesians 2:21 (NLT)
We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.

Especially within the Church, we are meant to be connected. We are meant to experience life together and be there for each other. Take a look at these other verses…

Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

Romans 12:15 (NLT)
Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

We are to live in community… connected to each other.

2.    I like your focus on openness.

On Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile under the “basic information” heading this is what he says…

“I'm trying to make the world a more open place.”
~ Mark Zuckerberg

And that really echoes what he told Wired magazine way back in 2010…

“The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open.”
~ Mark Zuckerberg

Openness is a big deal for Mark Zuckerberg; it’s also a big deal for God. God wants us to learn to be open and authentic with each other. He doesn’t want us to pretend to be someone we’re not. He certainly doesn’t want us to conceal our weaknesses and struggles in order to put forward some polished image that tries to tell people we have it all together when that’s simply not the case.

In the ancient Greek theatre, actors would often portray different characters. And the way they would let the audience know which character they were would be by holding giant masks in front of their faces. This kind of play-acting was known as hypocrisis, from which we get our word hypocrisy… pretending to be one thing while in reality you’re something else. But while this kind of “hypocrisis” is fine for the theatre, Jesus does not want us to be hypocrites in real life.

Luke 12:1-2 (NLT)
Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.”

3.    Avoid the very appearance of evil.

I don’t know how much is true, but I do know that Zuckerberg has been accused of some rather unscrupulous activities.

For example, before launching Facebook in 2004, he developed another site in 2003 called Facemash. And basically, this was a “Hot or Not” kind of website. Two images of fellow students were placed side-by-side, and people were supposed to judge which one was hotter.

That in and of itself is a questionable project, but Zuckerberg didn’t even get permission from the students to use their images like that. How would you feel if you discovered your picture on a site like that?

Making the problem even worse was the way Zuckerberg got the images in the first place. He hacked into restricted areas on the Harvard servers, which almost resulted in him being expelled.

Plus, you may be familiar with the lawsuits that have been brought against him. There are old classmates as well as former employers who claim that Zuckerberg stole their ideas.

Again, I don’t know what’s true and what’s not. And the fact is, anyone who experiences Zuckerberg’s level of success can expect people to start throwing accusations. Sometimes there’s some truth to them and other times they’re completely bogus. And you can’t completely eliminate them.

But what you can do is minimize the opportunities for people to make those accusations. You can make sure everything you do is above board, that you don’t get involved in any questionable activities, that you take precautions, and that even if something might be legal by the letter of the law you choose to do what is legal and ethical. You don’t even open the door for people to jump to conclusions or throw accusations at you.

The apostle Paul wrote about avoiding the very appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22, KJV) and instead living above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2). This means living in such a way that you don’t even give people a basis to make an accusation against you.

4.    Remember to always treat others with respect and dignity.

A big complaint that a lot of users of Facebook express deals with the privacy issue. How safe are people when they begin to post personal information? How secure are they from unauthorized people getting hold of it? How vulnerable are young teenagers who don’t understand the dangers? How does Facebook use your private personal information?

This is about respect. It’s about respecting people’s privacy. It’s about treating people with dignity. And how did Jesus say we should treat others?

Matthew 7:12 (NLT)
“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

This applies even when people mistreat you. You treat people as you would like them to treat you… with dignity and respect… regardless of how they have actually treated you.

I have not yet seen that movie… The Social Network… but from what I understand, it doesn’t portray Zuckerberg in the most positive light. Critics have been quick to point out many of the inaccuracies in the story… things that were changed or added for dramatic effect. Aaron Sorkin (who wrote the screenplay) responded to the critics by saying…

“I don't want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling. What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy's sake…?”
~ Aaron Sorkin
The Social Network’s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin to New York magazine

Well, I would say that when you’re portraying a real-life person… a 26-year-old businessman who probably didn’t deserve to have his name “dragged through the mud” as one critic wrote (Andrew Clark of The Guardian)… you probably should have a fidelity and loyalty to the truth.

Zuckerberg, who was not consulted in the making of the movie, has actually responded quite well. He’s set the record straight on a few things, and credited the film with the things it got right. He has kind of shrugged off some of the negative aspects of the story and has chosen to treat it lightly. You may remember the words of Jesus…

Matthew 5:39 (NLT)
“If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.”

You may also remember these words from the Old Testament book of Proverbs…

Proverbs 25:21-22 (NLT)
If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.

5.    I like your slogan. Reminds me of my own.

Facebook actually seems to have a few different slogans or mottos, but there’s one in particular that every new member will see as they are signing up…

“It’s free and anyone can join.”

And isn’t that really what the message of the Church is? Isn’t that the message God has given us to proclaim? Isn’t that the message of hope that we have to share with the world? “It’s free and anyone can join.”

God’s grace, God’s forgiveness, God’s salvation… it’s free and available to everyone.

Jesus and the faith founded on His message have been accused of being exclusive and intolerant, but the truth is that there is no one more inclusive than Jesus. Because while He proclaims that there is a right way and a wrong way… that salvation can only be found in Him… He also invites every person on the face of the planet to come to Him. He invites you to come to Him. He said…

John 10:9 (NIV)
“I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.”

Underline the word “whoever.” What does that mean? It means “whoever.” (Duh.) He came to rescue whoever would receive Him, regardless of race, background, education, ethnicity, or economics.

Romans 3:22 (NLT)
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

Romans 6:23 (NLT)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

It’s free and anyone can join. Including you. If you haven’t already, why not choose to join Him today? Why not make the decision to live for Him and follow Him from this moment on? You can make that decision even right now.

Okay, so those are some things that Jesus might say to Mark Zuckerberg specifically. But what else might He say to you and me as we make use of social media in all its forms… whether it be Facebook, or Twitter, or YouTube, or MySpace, or whatever else is coming? We’re going to go through these quickly…

What else would Jesus say to us about using social media?

A.    Enjoy social media, but do not allow it to replace face-to-face contact.

Just a couple weeks ago (January 2011) The Vatican came out with a statement endorsing the use of social media and encouraging Christians to take full advantage of the benefits of it. But along with the endorsement, Pope Benedict also issued this warning…

“This is a great opportunity, but it also requires greater attention to and awareness of possible risks… Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? …Virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI
From the Vatican, 24 January 2011, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

B.    Beware of facades.

What’s a façade? It’s an outward appearance that is fake or false. In that proclamation released by the Pope, he warned against creating a false reality online…

“In the search for sharing, for ‘friends’, there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI
From the Vatican, 24 January 2011, Feast of Saint Francis de Sales

Just yesterday, I heard about a conference that was recently held in Mexico. A big part of the conference was talking about progression of technology, and one of the speakers suggested that the day is coming when we will access the Internet through an implanted chip or through contact lenses. So you could be online anywhere, anytime, all the time.

The speaker also talked about the implications of this. Say, for example, you were a single guy who didn’t have a date for Saturday night. You could simply conjure up the most beautiful woman you could think of and create a virtual representation of her. If you wanted to experience a movie together—say, Casablanca—you could have her image replace Ingrid Bergman and your image replace Humphrey Bogart and enjoy the movie that way.

In one sense, that sound’s pretty cool and exciting. In another sense, though, it sounds pretty scary. Because you know and I know that there are people who are going to lock themselves up in their basement and live in that kind of a virtual world 24/7.

But the truth is, that’s not all that different from the way some people are treating social media today. They have removed themselves from reality and created a façade… a whole new world online, and that’s simply not healthy.

C.    Consider social media to be a guest in your home.

It’s good to have guests, but eventually there comes a time when the guests have to go home. There comes a time you’ve got to turn the computer off, too.

And think about this… how would you respond to a guest who came into your home and started acting and talking in abusive and even destructive ways? What if they started telling dirty jokes to your kids or swearing in front of them? What if they started slandering your best friends? What if they just started being rude and crude? You’d probably ask them to leave, right? Why should Facebook or any other social media be any different?

Psalm 101:3 (NLT)
I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar.

D.    Evaluate and monitor how you are affected personally.

I’ve seen people do things and say things online that they would never do or say in person. I’ve seen people hide behind the anonymity they can find online while lashing out at others. I’ve seen people ruin their lives and destroy their relationships because of their online practices.

How is social media affecting you? Especially in areas like violence, and sexuality, and profanity… how have you been affected? How have your relationships been affected… positively or negatively? How about your thoughts and what you dwell on? Do some changes need to be made? Jesus said…

Matthew 18:9 (NLT)
“And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.”

What is Jesus saying? He’s not advocating for self-mutilation. He’s saying, “Cut off the sources that tempt you to sin.”

And parents, let me add this… you should monitor how your children are using and acting with social media. Obviously, the amount of monitoring required should be regulated according to their age, their maturity, and their track record. But check in once in a while to make sure that they are safe, that their privacy settings are set pretty high, and that they are not using social media in self-destructive ways.

Here’s the final thing… especially if you’ve been monitoring and you’ve detected some negative effects from the use of social media…

E.    Establish social media-free times.

Maybe one night a week, one week a month, or one month a year. Establish a time when you’re going to take a break. You can even call it fasting. Just turn it off for a while and see what happens.

You may find out how much you are controlled by social media. You may find out that you are overly dependent on Facebook, to an unhealthy level. I know of people who have given up Facebook for Lent as a way to restore balance in their lives.

1 Corinthians 6:12 (NLT)
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.

Are you becoming a slave to social media? There are lots of benefits that it offers and I want to encourage you to take full advantage of that. But I also want to advise caution, wisdom, and balance.


Copyright © 2011 Greg Hanson