Facebook and Other Social Media as Culture
To understand the impact and potential of platforms like Facebook, we need to understand some of the building blocks that underpin today’s web-connected communities. We are in the midst of a global conversation that is underway across the world via the World Wide Web and, in the case of tools like Facebook, this conversation can be seen as being very open and often transparent for participants. The key component of this conversation is participation (the more, the better in most cases). How, when, and where we choose to participate is now a choice deserving thoughtful consideration and this is a new cultural concept for many of us. Today we have a myriad of new conversation mediums to work with and if we want to be active participants—sometimes shaping these mediums in the process—we are forced to make some choices as to what is important to share. As we once shared our thoughts with cave paintings and then by publishing our intimate thoughts in widely distributed books, or simply by sitting in groups watching slides or digital pictures from a recent vacation, we continue to express ourselves in the mediums available to us today. This appears to be a natural human act that has been with us since the dawn of time.
A second underpinning theme in this global conversation is the notion of community. Today community is online, offline, and everywhere we look. We now think and act globally, as part of a global connected community, crossing all geographic and cultural boundaries. Inherent in this connected community is an unparalleled opportunity to bridge cultural understanding, share knowledge, share work, level access for all participants, and hopefully make the planet a whole lot smarter. We are certainly nowhere near this connected conversation state today, but the space for opportunity is rich and we are clearly on the path to a fully connected culture.
Tools like Facebook are extending our reach and also giving us a platform to both produce and consume in the new media realm (as a platform for launching other applications, Facebook is huge; Zynga, a game company, accounts for 12% of Facebook's revenue.) Facebook says “that about 60% of the online population in the U.S. and U.K. is registered on their social network … [and that] Facebook is even more popular in Chile, Turkey and Venezuela, where the company has penetration rates of greater than 80% of Internet users”. Recent Facebook IPO-related announcements highlight the social network’s 845 million monthly users, 2.7 billion likes and comments, and 250 million photos uploaded per day. There are an estimated 100 billion friendships (if everyone had the same amount of friends that would be 118 friends per person) and for each user, Facebook makes about $4.39 in revenue. This sort of multicultural connected playground has never been seen before and we are only in the very early stages of adoption.
Just like in the past we need to develop our own personal filters about what constitutes ‘too much information’ and it seems that this boundary is being stretched every day. However, we know that humans seem to have this innate need to share, be seen and explore with and through each other — it is our nature and it is our culture.