Social Media Numbers: How Many Friends and Followers Are Enough?

Many Faces Numbers are everywhere. They count my blog followers, posts viewed, tweets tweeted, and comments made. Social sites record my friendships and display which and how many of my friends like my updates. To find a total calculation of my online worth, I have only to check my klout score. A writer can also count reviews, rankings, and sales figures. Numbers these days sometimes seem more important than people.

Is it just me, or has the entire connecting and networking world collectively reverted to one huge high school popularity contest?

In the Biblical book of 2 Samuel, King David directed that his fighting men be counted. Joab, the army commander, urged him to reconsider. David overruled Joab, even when his army commanders protested, too.  Why did they object? Perhaps they understood David’s motive as pride, the very sin that catapulted Lucifer from heaven.

David would listen to no one, and so 800,000 able-bodied men in Israel and 500,000 in Judah were enumerated. When David received the report, his conscience smote him, but it was too late to take back his sin. In the plague that followed, 70,000 of David’s people died as punishment for his sin and also for Israel’s rebellion against God.

Does this mean that keeping track of statistics is wrong? Yes, and no. Remember that at other times in the Bible, God directed the people to be counted. Knowing your numbers can be a useful tool, but pride in numbers does not please God.  He wants us to look to His strength and not our own. He’s the same God who cut the huge army Gideon gathered down to size just to prove that victory would come not from human might but from the hand of God (Judges 7).

Once my pastor lifted my small daughter into his arms and pointed out to the congregation that it was her birthday and she was now four. She turned an unblinking stare on him. “I am not a number.” Her pronouncement, spoken with conviction, reached to the back of the church. While the congregation laughed, my face heated, and I sank down in my seat. Now I wonder if my preschooler wasn’t onto something many adults fail to understand.

I am not a number, and neither are you.

18 Replies to “Social Media Numbers: How Many Friends and Followers Are Enough?”

  1. Wonderful post, Janalyn. Too many times, I get caught up in my tribe numbers. Recently, God reminded me to ask myself, How can I help show Jesus to these people, instead of how they can help me reach my goals. Thanks for your discernment.

    1. Melissa, it’s easy to put the wrong thing first, whether that’s numbers or goals (or number goals). When we dehumanize others we surrender our own humanity. It’s well to remember that Satan tempted Christ in the desert by offering him kingdoms. I’m sure that because Jesus had his heart set on the one true Kingdom he saw earthly kingdoms as pale substitutes.

  2. Amen and amen. thanks for this return to sanity, Janalyn. We’re all alike under the same pressure, but if we can transform that into an opportunity to bless others, to love others, then we’re no longer working the numbers, we’re loving people.

  3. Thanks, for the potent reminder, Janalyn! It is my intention to see numbers as individuals whose lives I’m honored and humbled to speak into but it’s a mindset that I definitely have to reset if I’ve been listening/reading too many marketing tips! 🙂 Ran across a beautiful Oswald quote this a.m. that spoke to me the same way. “We are all based on a conception of importance, either our own importance, or the importance of someone else; Jesus tells us to go and teach based on the revelation of His importance. “All power is given unto Me.… Go ye therefore” Amen!

    1. Thanks for that great quote, Shellie. Adopting the attitude of a servant rather than a king (or queen) enables us to find the humility you mention. Pride was the sin by which Satan fell, but our Lord was born in a manger.

  4. Timely post. As a “new” blogger, I check my stats almost daily. While it’s good to use numbers to improve and see which activities work, I may be turning to numbers (Facebook comments, e-mails, etc.) more and more for self-esteem and connection, rather than really connecting with people. I need to learn to balance that.

    1. Elizabeth, thanks for commenting so honestly. As inanimate objects, numbers are far easier to relate to than people. But they will never care about or be moved by us.

  5. Love your unique perspective. This post helps me remember to let God decide when and which numbers are important. I must partner with Him to count what needs counting, and to let the rest go.

  6. Great thoughts, Janalyn! God’s number system has always been radically different than man’s. Usually when God asks us to count it’s something like this: “Count the cost of being a believer.” “Count it all joy when you suffer trials of all kinds…”

    After reading your post I’m singing, “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” replacing “world” with “set of numbers.” Kinda catchy once you get into it. ; )

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