News Revelations

How Facebook is like church, according to founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the Alumni Exercises after the 366th Commencement Exercises on May 25, 2017, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

CHICAGO (RNS) Its members gather to comfort and encourage one another. They check in on the sick and struggling. They wish each other a happy birthday.

But it’s not church.

It’s Facebook.

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week in Chicago at the first Facebook Communities Summit that the two are similar in the way they create community and bring people together.

“We all get meaning from our communities,” Zuckerberg said.

“Whether they’re churches, sports teams or neighborhood groups, they give us the strength to expand our horizons and care about broader issues. Studies have proven the more connected we are, the happier we feel and the healthier we are. People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity — not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community.”

Zuckerberg made the analogy last week as he announced the new mission of the world’s largest social network: “Bring the world closer together.”

That comes as Facebook reached 2 billion users on Tuesday and expands its previous mission, as the CEO and founder described it, “to make the world more open and connected.” (It also comes as ProPublica published a review of internal documents shedding light on the algorithms Facebook’s censors use to determine hate speech.)

Christian publications interpreted Zuckerberg’s remarks in different ways; some said he was suggesting the social network should draw inspiration from the church, while others fretted he was envisioning a future where Facebook replaces the church.

Speaking to an audience made up of administrators of popular Facebook groups, Zuckerberg announced a goal to connect 1 billion people via groups and encouraged the administrators to invite and care for people in theirs — much like clergy do.

“As I’ve traveled around and learned about different places, one theme is clear: Every great community has great leaders,” he said.

“Think about it. A church doesn’t just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter. A Little League team has a coach who motivates the kids and helps them hit better. Leaders set the culture, inspire us, give us a safety net and look out for us.”

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

8 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • Zuccerberg is describing church, Facebook, other organizations, and leaders at their best. It is refreshing to hear someone speak about what organizations and leaders can provide and inspire instead of the constant barrage of the negative.

  • In Church, we do not commit atrocities and stream or post them online as they do on facebook! No, its nothing like Church, its social media. Church is not a social gathering

  • Yes, Facebook is (not like) a religion. It holds dogmas it bends (it *algorithms*) the whole world to obey. To those who refuse it excommunicates.

  • “Whether they’re churches, sports teams or neighborhood groups, they give us the strength to expand our horizons and care about broader issues. Studies have proven the more connected we are, the happier we feel and the healthier we are. People who go to church are more likely
    to volunteer and give to charity — not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community.”

    So, this little thief-cum-entrepreneur is going to insult our intelligence by telling us that Facebook is like a church?! Do you recall how he STOLE the original idea from two male twins who had their model aready operating? As I recall, the courts ordered him to pay about 2-mil for the theft. That was a rather small investments, considering how he’s pocketed literally billions in the years since then!

    I will take issue with the studies he cites that purport to show how we are happier and healthier (and more good looking?) we are–volunteer and give to charity, etc.–if we’re more connected. I would argue that there are even BETTER studies showing how all of these are true with friends who engage in FACE-TO-FACE conversations to maintain their relationships!

    Somehow he doesn’t get around to mentioning the good studies that show how frequent users of social media are actually much UNHAPPIER with there lives! It seems they’re constantly comparing the virtual fantasy-lives of their friends to their own real, mundane lives!

    To me, it sounds like this guy needs to attend a good church or synagogue somewhere, and learn a little bit about honesty and integrity!

  • Zuckerberg knows nothing (zero, zip, nada) about church — which is how (and why) he can dream up his phony equivalences.

  • Most churches are. they meet on sunday or saturday etc, yet they are not involved in each others lives like in the book of Acts. You may be a part of an assembly of believers who actually act like a church should(living life together instead of gathering for a couple of hours on a day or two a week), but many churches are more just social gatherings instead of living breathing bodies of believers. I personally see the potential for stuff like facebook because it is not limited by the specific individual. You can have as much discussions and bringing glory to God as you want on facebook. You can share all kinds of uplifting and spiritual revelations, worship and writings. So why is that so bad in the eyes of so many in the “church”. Seems more like too many people don’t want to become a part of a continuing community. Remember, there is always ways to block what you see and read on facebook. You can be involved with and relate to whoever you want to. Or maybe too many people dont want to be open and honest truly with one another and would rather have it where you only get to see what they want you to see rather than their true self. I mean, come on now, who wants to really see and pray for what your brother and sister in the Lord has been trying to hide from everyone. Its the people who make it a bad experience, and not the facebook itself. People try and blame facebook for their trouble, however, thats the same as blaming water for killing a person or a car, because it existed and somebody drowned in it and the car was made and somebody used it to kill somebody with, never mind the fact that it was the person who chose to get in the vehicle or the person who fell into the body of water and couldn’t swim. No, lets not look at the actions of the person.

ADVERTISEMENTs