I’m writing this partly for posterity — maybe in 10 years back when we’re living our entire lives in the Facebook Virtual Reality Matrix, we’ll look back and say “Remember when it was just a social networking site?” And partly out of old-fashioned curiosity. I should disclose that I’m one of the five or six people in the world that doesn’t have a Facebook account.
If you don’t use Facebook, you know about it. It has close to a billion users, about 1/7th of the human population of the planet! And if you use Facebook, you really use it: 3.2 billion likes or comments are generated, every single day while in the first quarter of 2011 over 300 million photos were uploaded each day. Each day!
A study this year tried to find out what was driving the eight hours a month that Americans spend in front of Facebook. They tested the five established categories for online activity: information seeking, interpersonal communication, self-expression, passing time and entertainment. Only information seeking wasn’t relevant to Facebook, with the biggest factors being entertainment and time passing. In other words, we use Facebook because mainly we’re bored!
Over 4 million businesses have pages on Facebook now. With a billion people to sell to and ease of content sharing, why wouldn’t they be? If you can write a good piece that people like, and people share it, they’re doing your marketing for you. Facebook itself is the second top earner of online display ads (behind the mighty Goog), although their growth forecast was cut last month by about a billion dollars.
Through shock and awe Facebook has invaded our vernacular. It can be a noun — “Are you on Facebook?” A verb “Look, a goat that sounds like a man, I’m going to Facebook that!” It even has a gerund: “Are you still Facebooking?” Other aspects of Facebook vernacular have also found their way into the dictionary, like “Unfriend.” Yes, unfriend is a word and has been since 2009.
Email is for dinosaurs now
Email is passe now? You’re kidding me. Yet it makes sense — why log in to Gmail when you can message your friends on Facebook? They probably check Facebook more often than email, giving you more chance of a reply, and you don’t have to open a new tab. I remember when people would say to me “I don’t have email,” and I’d think “Dinosaur.” Now I’m the dinosaur. Hey, don’t you get cocky, Facebooker. In 20 years you’ll be trying to double-click your quantum mind-control matrix interface and your kids will be laughing at you.
Don’t search us, we’ll search you
This is one that I find particularly interesting. People are expecting less-and-less to go and find news and content they find interesting; they expect it to come to them. And the more that sites know about you, the better they can get at delivering what you want. Facebook are not the only ones involved in this process — even search engines now deliver results to you not based on an objective search of the web, but based on your past searches and browsing history. But the nature of Facebook necessitates this. Although most people post things on Facebook that they like, not necessarily what they think their friends like, birds of a feather flock together, making it a safe bet anyway.