If you haven't heard, the Facebook age was officially enshrined in the history books with the social networking titan's initial public offering on the Nasdaq stock exchange instantly inflating the portfolios of thousands. But what does the exponential growth of social media say about us as human beings? What should it say? Way before Mr. Zuckerberg became a household name, Nechemia Schusterman had these thoughts to share.
I have Facebook friends therefore I am—Nechemia Schusterman, 2008.
If I am I because you are you and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. However, if I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am indeed I and you are indeed you—Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk.
I have done my best to avoid the new Facebook phenomenon for the longest time. Until finally my wife told me that this can be an effective tool in Jewish outreach. So I succumbed. I logged in, made an account and behold, I now had a Facebook identity.
Immediately I clicked on the "my friends" tab and sure enough the computer informed that that "You have no friends." I was devastated. I have worked hard my whole life to create friendships and relationships and reach out and love others and wish to be loved back but alas, I have no friends. Or so the computer says.
Immediately I called my therapist and scheduled an appointment to discuss my utter worthlessness and non-existence.
I clicked around and found a few people who I know and very self-consciously asked (begged) that they allow me to be their friend. I was fortunate as a few accepted my invitation and now I was only semi-worthless since now I had about five friends. Not a huge accomplishment for 32 years of existing on earth, but hey, it's a start.
But all this got me thinking about the quote from the Rebbe of Kotzk. What is the measuring stick by which I am to measure my self worth? Is it because others recognize me, my existence, my accomplishments? Am I worth something because I have many Facebook friends? Or is my worth based on my conforming and observing to a Higher power, namely G‑d?
The way I see it, if I am only I because you recognize me than I really am nothing even if you recognize me. However, if I am I because I make an effort to make a difference to the world around me, then regardless if it will be noticed or recognized beyond G‑d's Himself, I am truly worth something.
I think the message is huge; suddenly it isn't so important how many people came to my birthday party, how many people said thank you when I did a good job, how many people came to "my" synagogue on the holidays or how many people acknowledged me.
I matter because I am something to G‑d. I will have to suffice with my "unsung hero" status for now. And if I get a few friends on my Facebook page, well that will just be a bonus for now.