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I Facebook, Therefore I Am?

I Facebook, Therefore I Am?


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.

— Editor

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.

Happy Facebooking.

Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman is director of Chabad of Peabody, Massachusetts.
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Discussion (22)
May 22, 2012
Facebook Media
Facebook is a living Postcard; only a media form of mail. Personally, I restrict & limit my friends. I don't want alot of people there. However, I do subscribe to various news feeds... Chabad being one, some Israeli.. and so on; very select. Only that which uplifts, otherwise, I would turn on the television. It is pleasing to hear of others triumphs and console in sorrow when they are far away. In world crisis, we don't have to rely on news media; but can instant message. Like with the murders in France, I could find out what is going on without waiting for the noon or five pm news, from relatives there. Brilliant! Less Worry !
Boise, ID
May 20, 2012
Words vs. G-D
I applaud every word of your article. But I think Facebook is part of a larger and very serious problem in the world (especially America) in which people have come to worship secular words in place of G-D. Words! On a screen! In a therapists office! On a printed page! So powerful. Yet only the Orthodox remind us, through your tradition of inscribing the b" h characters every time you write, that the use of language is not meant to be taken so lightly.. remind us that even the most carefully and compassionately chosen words are limited in their reach and their power. And on Shabbat, many observant Jews do not write at all so that we remember what is important.

In short: the pen is mightier than the sword, but G-d is mightier than both.
May 20, 2012
Identity theft and misuse of friends on Facebook
Lots of companies are avoiding advertising by creating sweepstakes or other offers on their Facebook page where in order to enter you have to give the company access to your Facebook friends and share personal information. As the saying goes, once information is on the Internet, it's there forever, so please be careful to read any terms and conditions before you click.
Aaron Alter
Carlsbad, CA
May 20, 2012
Grammer Error
regardless if it will be noticed or recognized beyond G‑d's Himself

I'm not picky with this stuff generally, I just think the 's on G-d may be an issue
May 20, 2012
I am I, and only I...
I don't need anyone else to acknowledge that I am myself. I stay true to myself, never "change" for anyone else's desires and if they don't like it, too bad. I feel happy as myself and I will until the day I die.
Justin Roth
Staten Island, NY
October 21, 2010
You're welcome, Anon. Bhm.
Although it is a metaphor, such social sites can be used for evil or for good. My Chabad is on Facebook, and I follow it there. It's kind of fun. In fact, I think it's a way of getting free advertising out to let Jewish people know that there is a place they can go and be welcomed, particularly in cities like Riverside, CA where there are very few Jews. We are like a Baptist/Catholic conclave here. Nearly every block or other block has some sort of church. We have churches I've never before heard of, too, such as 7th day Baptist. Mostly, the people here seem to be Republican and conservative. So, when Jews go onto facebook, they can find a very welcome oasis of the Jewish faith.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
October 20, 2010
Thank You
Thank you for posting this.
May 31, 2010
Be careful with what you post on facebook.
I told someone "Be careful, your hatred is showing", because he made a political reference that was not nice. So, he then wanted to sue me for defamation. Before that, I was friends with his family. In fact, he insulted me so much on facebook that I "un-friended" him. His wife then was shocked that I said I didn't want to be their friend any more. Facebook is also, I believe, where some mom pretended to be a boy who liked a girl and then dumped her online, which led to the girl's suicide. Be careful.
Ms. Karen Kleinman
May 31, 2010
Just a metaphor
Karen, Rabbi Schusterman can correct me, but I think he was just using facebook friends as a metaphor for how we measure ourselves. He clearly does understand that facebook "friends" are not necessarily about real friendship. Unfortunately, though, too many people actually do take this stuff too seriously - they really see facebook friends as a serious measure of status and worth.
November 20, 2009
“Courage - a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it.”

- William T.Sherman

We all face choices in life in any given moment. How we choose to act when presented with a situation is called "Free Will". G-d has a divine spreadsheet on which is recorded all the merit and demerit points of humankind. We tip the cosmic scales in the correct direction through prayer, vigilance and right action. One definition of the word "Redemption" is counter-balancing. We counter-balance the evil in the world by acting well.
Adam Neira "Self Worth"
Melbourne, Australia