Why Did the Monk Unfriend the Deacon?

A number of years ago, I received a very unexpected friend request on Facebook. It was from someone I’ll call Stephen Nash, OFM. The name is made up, but the OFM is legit. Puzzled, I looked into Stephen and discovered that this acronym stands for “Order of Friars Minor.” Stephen, it seemed, was a Franciscan–specifically a Capuchin–monk. Let’s be clear: that’s Capuchin monk rather than monkey.

Not this!

Discovering the Monk

Having no reason not to accept the request, I clicked the appropriate button, wondering all along why this guy would be reaching out to me. I had every intention of asking him, but I never got around to it. Then, a couple of weeks later, seeing the name again, I thought, “There was that guy named ‘Stephen Nash’ in high school.” That’s when it hit me. Stephen had been the most religiously inclined person in our small class. He moved from evangelical circles to the Anglican communion at some point. As memory serves, I saw him a few years out of high school and he had crossed the Tiber to become a Catholic priest.

Honestly, Stephen and I weren’t best buds in high school, although we talked a fair bit. Thirty-plus years later, we had even less in common, but I always enjoyed seeing his posts. He thought about things in ways I never would.

The Monk Disappears

Facebook has a weird way about whose things it shows you. At times, I feel as if their algorithms are designed to annoy users, but surely that isn’t correct. You might have 500 friends and see posts from only 25 or 30 of them regularly. So when somebody disappears from the feed, you don’t necessarily notice it immediately.

Yesterday, after writing about how it is important for Christians of different opinions and backgrounds to carefully think about each other’s words, I thought about Stephen. I hadn’t seen one of his posts for a very long time–perhaps a year or more.

I searched for him in my friends. He’s still on Facebook, but he’s not among that rarefied group. I know I didn’t remove him from my list. Presumably he removed me from his.

The Deacon Questions His Self-Worth

What did I do to run afoul of Stephen’s sense of Facebook propriety? You don’t have to look very hard at his current postings to see that he is not a supporter of our current president. He posts a lot of editorial cartoons and comments upon them as if they were somehow fact rather than opinion. That’s fine, although I try not to do that sort of thing. I’m probably more apt to question my conservative friends when they say something not well thought out.

Having said that, I will confess that I tip my conservative tendencies sometimes. I’ll question the apparent self-contradictions of those on the social and political left, including my own children at times. I try to do that in a kind manner, but I’m sure that sometimes my snarky attitudes come through.

Did I somehow offend Stephen? Did I say something that led him to consider me persona non grata? Was it my excessive celebrating when the Royals won the World Series. I’ll probably never know.

The Deacon Opines

In the end, this whole episode just makes me sad. Yeah, I’ll miss the thinking that Stephen caused me to do, but I know that this sort of siloing–is that a word?–is going on all around the country. People on the left are cutting themselves off from people on the right. People on the right are cutting themselves off from people on the left. People in the middle increasingly find themselves forced to choose teams. And God forbid that we are confronted with some sort of reasoned opinion that causes genuine reflection.

Take good care of your like-minded friends, but take just as good of care with those who make you uncomfortable from time to time. And if I made Stephen too uncomfortable, I wish he’d have spoken to me about it.

Facebook for a Brave New Century

Five billion Facebook users will be dead by 2100? Is that really a headline worth noting? There are, at present, about 7.5 billion people in the world. With 81 years to the end of the century, it’s a good bet that the majority of those 7.5 billion will be dead. Since Facebook users are supposed to be 13 to sign up, that means that someone now on the service who survives to 2100 will have to be at least 94.

Of course, Facebook’s market penetration is pretty impressive with roughly one-third of the earth’s inhabitants in the user pot. If we just assume that 95% of these 2.38 billion Facebookers will die in the next 81 years, then we get 2.26 billion dead Facebook accounts. With lots of people signing up every day, some of whom will probably die over the next eight decades, it’s not that surprising that the intrepid researchers at Oxford University, came up with this figure.

I don’t blame social scientists for doing this sort of calculating, but I do think it is rather silly for media outlets to treat it as if it were news. And they did on CNBC, Digital Trends, CNET, and many others, although many of them obsessed about the “dead outnumbering the living” aspect.

It’s not news for a lot of reasons.

  • First, it is made to seem like a unique piece of information. But there will be even more deceased (one-time) users of cell phones in 2100. There will, by necessity, be more deceased Internet users. In the U.S., there will be hundreds of millions of dead WalMart shoppers. And there will almost certainly be more dead than active print newspapers. (Okay, that was a cheap shot.)
  • Second, projections are foolish. The best forecasts are the ones made after the fact. To assume that mortality rates will hold about steady might be correct. To assume that population growth can be predicted is probably less certain. To believe that Facebook will be adding (and watching the mortality of) users in 2050 or 2075 like they are in 2019 is just absurd. If you doubt that, run some “predictions” based on 1950 numbers of shoppers at Sears by 2020.
  • Third, the current 2.38 billion Facebook accounts is a little suspect. Of the 7.5 billion earthlings, about 1.3 billion live in China and are out of bounds for Facebook. That leaves 6.2 billion available. When roughly 23% of the world’s population is under 13, the potential users fall to about 4.6 billion. Therefore, Facebook already has over half of available people signed up? I’m thinking there are some phony accounts or a few million.
  • Fourth, the suggestion that Facebook will have more dead than live users by 2100 is a little ridiculous. People who post on Grandma’s account just after her death notwithstanding, there are no dead Facebook users. By the way, there are far more dead inhabitants of cemeteries than live ones.

Facebook is not an afterlife. Honestly, social media is not all that fulfilling of a hear-and-now life, but that’s a topic for another day.

And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. –Hebrews 9:27-28

By the way, current projections of Tunemyheart activity suggest that I will have posted 30,870 additional entries by December 31, 2100. Hold me to that!