With the announcement of Mark Zuckerberg as Time’s Person of the Year, I am reminded of an earlier article I wrote of a couple years ago, I Facebook, Therefore I Am?

The premise of that article was that many, myself included, at times seem to value their self-worth, or perhaps their organization’s worth, based on how many people “like” them. (Many companies are now offering large donations to the institution that can get the most people to be their—the company’s—friend.)

Not to toot my own horn, but I seem to have been ahead of the curveNot to toot my own horn, but I seem to have been ahead of the curve. I’ve gained a few hundred friends since then, many perhaps because of that article, but I’ve certainly grown in knowledge and maturity to realize that just because someone else thinks I am friend-status worthy, it does not make me more or less valuable as a human being.

Alas, this is not a new problem. Sadly, in extreme cases, kids have been shooting up their high schools, and crazies have attacked colleges, military bases and other locations, because someone else did or did not validate them. They were scorned by others, sometimes overtly, or more often by simply not noticing them. They justified their malicious behavior based on others’ noting or not noting their existence, basing their self worth on another.

Not that Facebook and social networking isn’t the “rage” right now—it is. And to say that it is all bad is also not true. It has many redeeming qualities, of which I myself, and our Chabad Center, take great advantage. However, it is simply amazing that so many can base their self-worth, and Time Magazine apparently agrees, on their “status” and number of “friends” on a pseudo–“social network” computer program. I’m not so presumptuous to say that 500 million members (of Facebook) all got it wrong, but to say that the creator of this computer program is the “Man of the Year” because he has helped redefine how people see themselves seems, in a word, ludicrous.

This week we begin the book of Shemot (Exodus) in our weekly readings of the Torah. The story is well known: we were enslaved, Moses came along, there were ten plagues, Exodus from Egypt, passing through the Sea of Reeds, receiving the Torah at Sinai.

Our sages teach us that in the merit of three simple good deeds the Jews were worthy of redemption. (After all, at some point in their engulfment in the depravity of Egypt, they started to mimic their masters. Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps?) 1. The Jews didn’t change their names. 2. They kept their language. 3. They kept their mode of dress.

I daresay that these three ingredients are what really define a person. Your name is your handle, not your hyphenated pseudo-description on your “info” tab on Facebook. Your name, according to Kabbalah, calls into your essence. This is why when one faints you call his name, because it calls his soul from hiddenness to a state of revelation.

Our language is the style in which we speak, the choice of words we use, the topics in which we engage, and the like. That defines what we are really. It isn’t an accident that we say daily in our prayers, Baruch She’amar vehaya ha’olam, “Blessed is He who spoke and the world came into being.” The power of the spoken word is such that it has the power to create and destroy; it is in our hands.

It is simply amazing that so many can base their self-worth on their “status” and number of “friends”Finally, our mode of dress, our modesty, how we present ourselves. What is that line, “you are what you wear”? Well, Jewish mysticism has a different take: your garments, your spiritual garments, as explained in the Tanya, are your thoughts, your speech and your actions. These are what and who you really are. Many style magazines beckon at us from newsstands in stores; websites pop up online to tell us what is the latest and greatest in fashion (and a whole lot more). The Jews, however, always had their own &147;code.” This is what separated them, and made them what they were, and are, truly worth.

So, as we enter the next book of the Torah, I beg to differ with the great Time Magazine. And while Mr. Zuckerberg sounds like a nice (and fabulously wealthy) Jewish kid, sure to have made his mother proud, I’d have picked someone else to be the Person of the Year. Not someone who helps us access, at times, our most shallow common denominator.

I am because I am (a Jew), not because I am on Facebook.