As of last month, there are 1.19 billion people on this planet who are active on Facebook. I’m one of them. I bet you probably are too huh?
It’s one of those tools that the world loves or hates … or loves to hate but can’t get the hell off it.
I fit into the latter of those three demographics of Facebook users. I think it has far more negative elements than positive (as discussed in more detail here).
It’s the biggest aggregator of human information the world has ever seen. It captures our entire lives and gives this information to a publicly listed US company, and 1billion+ people are cool with that! But, gosh darn it, I get to see photos of my friends cats and it plugs into my Spotify account so I’m willing to let its malicious corporate agenda slide this time – after all, my Spotify playlists are so kick ass now!
There are millions of stories of how negative of a place Facebook can be. Stories of bullying that lead to people taking their own lives, divorces due to risqué images people were tagged in and has no doubt led to thousands of punches in the face due to status updates people took offense too.
It’s very easy to find a negative story about Facebook.
But this post is about a good Facebook story. In fact I think it’s one of those good human stories. The kind that makes you forget how shitty things can be sometimes.
This story begins with the day I found God.
Not the imaginary guy in the sky that human’s have been killing themselves over for the past 2000 years or so. I’m talking about the one on Facebook.
The God account is one of the thousands of humour pages on Facebook that share funny pictures and content from around the Internet. But the difference with this account is, well, it claims to be God – the alleged creator of the universe and everything in it.
That’s its unique selling proposition and the very reason its follower count now sits at 1.17million people (1,172,667 at the time of writing this).
Many devout (and angry) religious people hate this account and are not afraid to let the admin(s) of the account know. Unwittingly, it’s this outrage that lead to its popularity. Funnily enough, people defending God to God provides some pretty hilarious and ‘share worthy’ content.
The irate conversations were posted (with identities blocked out) and spread like wild fire. It amassed 500k fans in the first year, in the second year it went over 1 million fans. It’s current fan count is approximately 1.17 million people.
The hybrid of funny conversations with extremely pissed off religious people, funny internet memes, weekly segments where the public can nominate for who should be ‘smote’ (or is it smited?) and even weekly ‘Ask God’ segments – where God will answer any question you may have about faith, life, death or anything else for that matter, all resulted in a perfect formula for viral Facebook content.
But over the past 12 months in particular, the commentary changed a bit. There were less angry conversations occurring on the account – perhaps due to the audience knowing that if you come after God, he’ll make you Internet famous and thousands of people from around the globe will make fun of you. Kind of like trying to make fun of a comedian at a comedy club when they have a microphone and you’re drunk – you’re gonna get your ass handed to you and end up with 3 million views on YouTube, so don’t do it.
The conversations starting to come into the account began getting more personal. People telling their life stories; seeing the account as a place where they could talk to a stranger about troubles in their life, or things that were upsetting them.
The account still had it’s trademark ‘I’m more of a 2013 God, the vengeful fire and brimstone days were during my adolescent years’ attitude, but now the conversations were about helping people. Focusing on topics like mental health, depression, suicide and even touching on the gay marriage debate.
The pages wall began to fill up with comments similar to ‘I know you’re not real, but you helped me get through a hard time. Thank you’.
The negativity of the page had all but disappeared and was replaced by people using it as a forum to help each other. Conversations were now occurring on the page between complete strangers giving each other advice and positive commentary during tough times. It turned into a very positive and fun place to be. If you were sad you could spend 5 minutes on the God page and you’d be cheered up.
The one constant through all of this change though was the actual character of God. He would reply to personal messages (a rarity on accounts with large followings), comment on wall posts, post content and never break character.
It was always ‘God’ that was talking, never the guy behind the keyboard.
Out of character (kind of)
But a couple of weeks ago, an insight into the mysterious person behind the character occurred when a post appeared on 1.17million people’s Facebook wall. The post was an apology from God stating that there would be no content for a little while because ‘God’s’ mum had suddenly passed away.
The public outpouring was huge. The page lit up with messages of condolences and offers to help – that still continue today. Thousands upon thousands of messages of support from complete strangers all sending their best wishes and offers of assistance.
A little over a week later the story got a bit worse when the company who held God’s mum’s life insurance policy informed God’s family that the policy was null and void (the day before the thanksgiving holiday).
God decided he had to help out his family, after all his dad had just lost his wife of 40 years and was now also facing financial hardship due to a cancelled policy. In an attempt to help, God set-up and indiegogo account with the sole goal of raising $5000 of which would be used to give his dad (a retired minister) a holiday from all the horrible hands he’d been dealt over the past couple of weeks.
The story and a link to the fundraiser page was then posted on Facebook via the God page with the sole intension that if it could help brighten his dads life just a little bit, then it was worth a shot.
People from all over the world had donated to help God’s dad. Not only was the goal of $5000 reached, but within 24 hours people had donated more than $20,000 dollars.
The Indiegogo and Facebook page filled up with messages stating things like ‘ I had a conversation with you on Facebook 3 months ago and you helped me change my life, so I wanted to help’, ‘I just donated because your posts helped me get through some terrible times’, ‘I love your page and it makes me smile every day so I wanted to donate’ etc.
The very people who the God page was there for over the past couple of years, were now out in force to help him right back!
The response was overwhelming, via not only the fundraiser but also as far as getting a response from the Life Insurance company. Unprompted, fans of the God page took it upon themselves to contact the insurance company.
The interaction on the companies Facebook page exploded with people demanding that they look into the situation more closely. It’s one of those social media meltdown moments every company hopes never happens.
(I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall when their social media team started to receive complaints from thousands of people stating that they screwed over God – pretty sure there’s no corporate social media policy in the world ready for THAT complaint)
It’s interesting what you can achieve when you have 1,000,000+ people on your side who all know how to use the Internet huh…
In an unfortunate turn of events, it appeared that ‘Gods’ mum had in fact stopped paying into the account only a couple of months before she passed away, which made the donations from the fans even more of a god send. (no pun intended, but I couldn’t resist that one!)
To get the full picture of this story, it’s definitely worth checking out both the Facebook account and IndieGogo page where you can see the exact conversations and details about it all. If anything, it’s worth giving it a look to see one of those odd human moments where strangers go out of their way to help each other during times of need.
Even though 1.17million people who have clicked on that little thumbs up button and declared that they ‘like’ this page, the Facebook character is no doubt polarizing; after all the very existence of the account is a sin in most religions rulebooks.
It’s the target of so much hatred from a lot of people offended by its existence even though the page’s sole purpose is to make people smile via funny screenshots, sharing Internet memes or even just giving someone a random, internet shoulder to cry on when they are having a hard time.
I find it odd that the action of helping people, loving yourself and your family, accepting people and looking after one another are the very foundations of the beliefs and religions of the people who despise this page, yet these are the exact messages the page has always tried to promote.
Now, it may be very easy to dismiss this post with a comment like ‘Whoa settle down, it’s just a meme sharing page on Facebook’, but just spend 5 minutes looking at the types of messages from people all over the world that post on the God account’s wall – it’s all so positive.
The Internet can be a horrible place sometimes. A wild frontier of anonymity where trolls roam free to publicly shame and bully people, spew hateful messages and just generally be dicks to one another.
But it can also be an awesome place too, where you can meet people from all over the world, learn about and promote new ideas and really make a difference in peoples lives with a few clicks of a mouse.
I think this God page – in particular the actions of a few thousand complete strangers over the past few days – is one of those awesome Internet examples of how to not only use social media in a positive way, but also a good example of how to – as Bill and Ted would say – be excellent to each other.
Successful social media engagement lies in being able to build an engaged audience. To engage on a personal level. Provide value. Encourage emotion; happiness, sadness, anger, whatever.
Ultimately, it’s about being human. Ironically, it took a God to prove it.