Today I gave an assembly on Facebook to Bryanston school. It went very well. Below is a screen shot from the power point I used and below that is the rough text I was using, although for one of the first times I was able to speak from the cuff without using my notes often at all. The trouble with that is I really can’t remember what I said.
“Where it came from :
Facebook – designed by Mark Zuckerburg – age of 19 – where? – Harvard dorm room 2004. Why – for him and his roomates to connect better with friends at Harvard. Having some html experience, Zuckerburg merged his tech skills with a plan for a social graph so people could stay connected. He thought about Myspace and the ways that it encouraged people to create new identities and link to people they don’t know, he knew that he wanted something different. The idea of a social graph is that it doesn’t care about people meeting new people. Instead it is a map of people’s real world relationships. Rather than building new connections and faking who you are, facebook allows you to be the real you and map your real friends.
It was this authenticity that took facebook to the top. It originally started at Harvard, moved to the rest of the Ivy Leagues in a matter of months, and was crawling down south to the University of Virginia by the time I was finishing my first year at college. In May of 2004 Mr. Jones opened his own facebook profile and the addiction began.
Five Major Developments in the company – kept him afloat since 2004. If you didn’t know, Z. turned down 1 billion dollars from yahoo in 2007 keeping the company private. IT was called the most arrogant move by a young executive in decades. To do this, he had to real in people in a way never done before. How’d he do it? Five genius moves:
1. Photo albums – immediate addiction factor
2. Newsfeed – feature that automatically broadcasts users’ most important activities to everyone in their networks, much like an igoogle newsfeed
3. Chats – just like aol IM, everyone will be on now
4. World Admission – facebook no longer for college students, anyone in the world can join for free now
5. Applications – downloadable programs, usually free, that enhance your surfing and can be managed all under the facebook banner. Picnik example
What to be aware of: Video Clip – Employers
This video is self explanatory. Facebook could affect your job some day, clean it up. Or clean up your life and don’t be fake. Either one really.
Now that FB has grown to three times the population of the UK, in effect it is a world directory connecting anyone to anyone smooth enough to make friends. The implications are staggering. It is obvious how far we have come since the 80s, the dinosaur period of the landline telephone. It never occurred to us that we could contact someone while they were driving. Now it’s weird if you can’t. There are mobile phones made just for facebook that synchronize your facebook events calendar with your phone calendar and your chat list with your phone directory. We’re still relatively new in the instant-information age, because the internet has just turned 20. But it’s easy to see that we now feel entitled to whatever we want to know whenever we want to know it. And it also points to a very obvious point that many all over the world, including Mr. Jones, can agree on: we are addicted to facebook.
Privacy is an enormous issue too. As of the 25th of March, the UK Government has begun discussions of soon monitoring all facebook, myspace and other network sites under the banner of anti-terrorism. The reaction, you can imagine, will be millions of complaints of breached rights of privacy. However, what’s ironic is that this is not exactly the government eaves-dropping on private information. If you have a government spy in a park using wire-taps and long-range mics on friends sharing personal information on a park bench, you’ve got a violation of rights. Is it a violation of rights when the citizens offer the information to the web voluntarily? This is a change in the definition of what is private and what is public. Facebook and other networking sites that give a venue to our personal lives have made a culture shift: what used to be private we have little problem making public knowing that the world might see it. We are in many senses forfeiting our own privacy. That’s huge.
What are the other implications? Perhaps we have lost the right to lose touch with people. Losing touch used to be a natural thing and no one would blame you for doing it. Look around you. In five years you would naturally lose touch with at least 70% of the people sitting in your row. You don’t owe the person you sit next to in year 10 maths life-time companionship, do you? But because keeping friends like these requires no effort at all thanks to FB, it is almost rude not to. Perhaps the value of friends is worth less – because if friends, like money, are a status symbol, then he with the most FB friends wins, right? Yes, but the more friends you have, the less they are worth – the less human they become. Is it changing the good old-fashioned sit down and get to know people for who they are sort of friendship?
Or perhaps facebook is the new soft-drug for the average high school student, twenty-something, and even our parents? Yes our parents. With average user rates between 2-4 hours a day (especially in the 25-50 year old crowd, which means your parents), the addiction factors are obvious. We all know how much time we spend on it. We all know how much time we could spend reading books for class or doing something worthwhile. And we all know how many times we shut the laptop after an hour session looking at profiles and we say “what have I accomplished?” A study just completed by Ohio State University on April 14 links a spurious relationship between college gpa and hours spent on facebook. Non users’ gpa tended to fall more firmly from 3.5-4.0, while facebook users landed between 3.0 and 3.5. Of course this is not to say that Facebook leads directly to poor grades. It is very likely that the people with the lower gpa would waste time on something else if it wasn’t for FB. All in all, it is taking a toll.
Don’t get me wrong. I love facebook. I am on facebook. You should all be on facebook. What an amazing way to keep in touch with people and prevent friendships from dying, if that is something you’re into. However, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to use it.
Facebook makes our lives seem suddenly much more dramatic, worthy of being performed on stage visible to millions. With the onset of Twitter and status updates, suddenly the trivial and the mundane become the profound and the glorious. But since when are our lives so interesting that they deserve a stage; that we feel compelled to share them with the world?
This is true all world around: There is a dissonance between who we are ( for MR. Jones often a borderline-boring person not exactly worth writing about) and what the media has made us want to be (for Mr. Jones, an interesting, famous, successful person etc.) But when we focus on looking like these successful people instead of being them, and when we maintain our surfaces, our image, our profiles but pay little attention to the content, the inside, who we really are, we develop a real sense of emptiness. And it is not new. This is an emptiness that has haunted generations for years and ours faces the threat in more complicated ways than any generation ever before.
Instead it is crucial to be who we really are in our digital selves. Having the discipline to say no to the image and to be authentic in our digital form will hopefully only inspire you to go out and find those compelling, dramatic, exciting lives worth telling. If it doesn’t do this, then at least it might get you a job. IF you’ve heard one thing today I hope that it isn’t: facebook is bad. I hope it was: facebook can be bad if it becomes your obsession. It can be great if you make it work for you, instead of you for it. Just be careful who you go around poking. Thanks very much.”