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!

Let’s Join the Baseball Bandwagon!

The Kansas City Royals are going to win the World Series in 2019! They won their opener yesterday (Thursday). At this rate, they’ll win 162 games this season. Let’s get excited. Let’s buy tickets while they’re still available. Let’s.

The second half of Psalm 118:24 contains a statement of intent or expectation:

. . . let us rejoice and be glad in it.

If we were to speak that idea in conversation, we’d almost certainly use the contraction “let’s.” Let’s eat. Let’s go to the movies. Let’s celebrate! Let’s get out of here. These all sound like good uses of “let’s,” but is that the sort of thing going on here?

If you read this clause in a number of different translations, you’ll find that it is almost exclusively rendered in one of two ways: “let us” or “we will.” As much as I generally appreciate the CSB, which I quoted above, I think the translators missed the mark in this case.

Think about it. What does “let us” mean? “Allow us”? Generally when we say it, like when we say “let’s eat,” we’re trying to recruit another person or persons to eat with us. I suppose that could be what’s going on here. Rather than hungry, the Psalmist is sensing the provision of God and thus recruits others to rejoice with him. Okay, but let’s try this another way.

In the KJV and a number of other translations, the phrase here is “we will.” It’s possible, if you are of a certain age or (especially) were taught English by an exceptionally old-school teacher, then you learned to conjugate that auxiliary verb “will” like this:

  • I shall; we shall
  • You will; You (all) will
  • He, she, it will; They will

Nobody talks or writes like that any more, but a hundred years ago you would have likely been taught that way. Certainly, in 1611, when the KJV appeared, they were taught that way.

The oddity of that approach to “will” is that when you’re not simply stating something that will happen in the future but stating a settled purpose or a command, you reverse the word. Therefore, you’d say “You will have a birthday next week” but “You shall clean up your room.” Or you might say “I shall eat breakfast” but “I will lose thirty pounds!” (My italics are simply for emphasis.)

When those four-hundred-year-ago translators said “We will rejoice,” they were not saying, “Hey, let’s all get together and rejoice!” or “I have rejoicing scheduled on my day planner.” They were saying either “We have no choice but to rejoice” or “We need to make a point of rejoicing.”

The Psalmist says “let us rejoice” or, better in my opinion, “we will rejoice,” and he’s not urging action based on a whim. It’s not the rejoicing that we might–might–do when the home team starts the season well. Instead, it’s more like the compulsion that put hundreds of thousands of Kansas Citians in the streets when the Royals won the World Series in 2015. We couldn’t not rejoice.

Although I eagerly joined that mob in 2015, I recognized then that I should feel an even stronger compulsion to rejoice because of what God does every day. So let’s rejoice!


What Has God Wrought?

It was the summer of 1969 and I rode around in a cavernous Chevy station wagon. We completely ignored the seatbelts and my mother mostly ignored the radio that was always on. That summer we listened as Zager and Evans sang:

In the year 2525, if man is still alive
If woman can survive, they may find
In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lie
Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today

That song, which is now stuck in your head for the next several hours if you’ve heard it before, kept jumping ahead, mostly by 1,010-year increments, and eventually made its way to 9510. It was profound–or so it seemed in the backseat of that station wagon.

The Nebraska duo who sang the song had a huge hit with it and then never had any other musical success. Still, they could always count on a big response when they launched into the song during live performance. People would recognize it and cheer, perhaps singing along. They had to stand there and think, “I did something good. I made this song.”

But did they? Yes, these guys, especially songwriter Rick Evans, created the text and melody. They joined with a few others, including the Odessa, Texas Symphony Orchestra, to record it. And then they appeared on various radio and TV programs during the summer and fall of 1969 to lip-sync it.

But maybe they only tapped into the zeitgeist, that sense of dread and disillusionment that came two years after the “summer of love.” Maybe this song could have been as big a dud as their followup “Mr. Turnkey.” Maybe if it had been recorded in 1965, it wouldn’t have been Beatles enough or in 1975 it wouldn’t have been Led Zeppelin enough. Who can say? Maybe the times had as much to do in making it as Evans and Zager.

But not so with the making in Psalm 118:24.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

That verb, “has made,” is in the Hebrew qal perfect. Basically that means that it is straightforward and utterly done. It would be wrong to translate this as the day God “is making” or “was making.” We could say it’s the day God “made,” but the addition of “has” emphasizes that the making is finished. It was God that made it and he did all the making.

“In the Year 2525” continues to be made, in a manner of speaking, when people hear it and think about it and use it in other settings, but this day has been made. The making is complete. Our actions within and around that day are still fluid, which is where the second clause of the verse will take us. The song touches on that idea.

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake His mighty head
He’ll either say I’m pleased where man has been
Or tear it down, and start again.

That’s Rick Evans’ take on theology at least. Happily he didn’t make much of that.

A Light in the Tunnel (Hebrews 2:5-6)

It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But there is a place where someone has testified:    “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? (Hebrews 2:5-6)

This world is just no durn good. You’ve got tornados here and flooding there. People are protesting against the military and other people don’t care. The government taxes us too much and they don’t do enough for us. People are wasting far too much time watching TV and there’s nothing good on. Have I mentioned that they’re putting all sorts of chemicals in our food? I tell you, it’s a mean old world.

And if all of that weren’t bad enough, I’d mention–and I guess I am mentioning–the fact that everything seems to be getting worse. Take a look around you and you’ll see topsoil washing away, jobs moving to Indonesia, and families disintegrating. Just this morning gas prices jumped by 13 cents. If that isn’t a sure sign of the final collapse of American civilization, then I’m not sure what is.

I tell you, I look at my children and my grandchildren, and I worry about what sort of a world they’ll be inheriting. I figure that by the time Uri, the youngest, is 25, the ozone will be depleted, Social Security will be a dim memory, and the K.C. Royals will still be mediocre or worse. There’s just not much hope.

If all of that rant sounds anything like you, then I have to direct your eyes, ears, and heart to to the verse above. It is not angels to whom God has subjected the world. True, but that sentence suggests that the world, the awful, disintegrating world, has been subjected to somebody. To whom?

It’s here that we break out the All-Purpose-Sunday-School Answer: “Jesus.” I have to ask myself, when I get into a despairing mood, if any world that has been made subject to Jesus is truly headed for a complete and final disaster. A disaster? Yes, but neither complete nor final. That’s the hope I’ll hang on to when times are difficult.