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Ahead of Facebook's 13th Birthday, a Celebration of What Unites Us

"Things feel divisive, they feel scary. I think all of us feel kind of unsettled," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer said.
Image: Sandberg
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks with guests at the "Friends Day" event.Facebook

We're not saying Mark Zuckerberg was a time traveler when he created Facebook, but if ever there was the perfect time to celebrate the birth of an idea that connected the world, that time may be now.

Facebook's 13th birthday, which is officially this Saturday, comes at a precarious moment in U.S. history as the nation grapples with President Donald Trump's controversial immigration ban.

Image: Sandberg
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg speaks with guests at the "Friends Day" event.Facebook

"It's obviously a challenging time in our country, in our world. Things feel divisive. They feel scary," Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook chief operating officer said. "I think all of us feel kind of unsettled."

Related: Silicon Valley’s Visceral Reaction to Trump’s Immigration Ban

Sandberg and Zuckerberg listened to stories from 19 people from around the world who came to Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters for an early celebration of what the company terms "Friends Day."

While Trump's order was never explicitly mentioned, the stark contrast between feelings of divisiveness around the country and the celebration of Facebook's global community was palpable at the event, which was attended by NBC News.

The day was about celebrating Facebook's diverse community and the friendships that have been forged across groups — from moms to fishing enthusiasts to women who love to travel.

Each attendee had at least one friend with them at the event and they took turns telling Zuckerberg and Sandberg how they use Facebook to keep in touch.

Pro-fisherman Mike Garcia formed an unexpected friendship with Eric Porter, a guy half his age, whom he joked he once considered his nemesis. Through the group Keep Austin Fishing, the pair found they had a lot in common and became friends.

Haley Woods, founder of GirlsLoveTravel, said she started the Facebook group because she was "lonely," always in a new city doing contract work.

"I don't have a home, a steady job, steady location, the steadiness of adulthood that gives you that opportunity to build that foundation," she said.

GirlsLoveTravel now has 208,000 members in its group, connecting women when they're traveling. She said there have been countless stories of friendship and kindness.

When one member traveling in Thailand fell ill, other women in the community jumped in to help. Woods said there are countless more stories like that.

Sandberg, who started the "Lean In" movement empowering women, seemed smitten with the idea.

"I love this!" she said.

Facebook is also hoping the Friends Day excitement will sweep through its 1.8 billion strong base. Be on the lookout for special Messenger friendship-themed GIFs and a Friends Day video to celebrate all of those special friendships — and that random dude from high school — who are on your Facebook friends list.