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Facebook: Time to Ask Some Questions
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Facebook: Time to Ask Some Questions

By: Teri Bernstein

 

 Zuckerberg spins Facebook's involvement in politics

 

Facebook has been in the news lately--not for its cute baby goat videos, but for its considerable political influence. Mark Zuckerberg's belated and underwhelming response to his company's role in abetting Russian tampering in the U.S election has raised questions about what we as a society have gotten ourselves into. In the New York Magazine article linked below, Max Read asks:

 

"What is Facebook? We can talk about its scale: Population-wise, it’s larger than any single country; in fact, it’s bigger than any continent besides Asia. At 2 billion members, 'monthly active Facebook users' is the single largest non-biologically sorted group of people on the planet after 'Christians'—and, growing consistently at around 17 percent year after year, it could surpass that group before the end of 2017 and encompass one-third of the world’s population by this time next year. Outside China, where Facebook has been banned since 2009, one in every five minutes on the internet is spent on Facebook; in countries with only recently high rates of internet connectivity, like Myanmar and Kenya, Facebook is, for all intents and purposes, the whole internet."

 

Mark Zuckerberg seems to have been blindsided by what may have been negative (or certainly unforeseen) consequences of Facebook's market penetration and open access. He conceived this business as aligning with this mission: "Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." But aren't parts of the world creepier and scarier than many Facebook users would like to be connected to? Moreover, Facebook generates revenue from selling data gathered from its users. And revenue from selling access to its users.

Who is using whom, exactly?

 

Facebook is not the only trans-national internet business that controls access to information as well as information about millions of users. Interestingly, Ad Age asked this question in 2012: "Will Facebook be an internet behemoth in 10 years?" Time flies. Other behemoths include: 

 

  • Google
  • Amazon
  • Apple

These internet powerhouses will shape the business environment for decades. As such, the questions about what they are, what they can do, and how they can be understood are well worth the consideration of anyone near the beginning of their own working life. 

 

Sources:

 

Discussion:

  • Use a time management system (e.g. Forest) to track the time you spend on Facebook+Google over a week or so. What happens when (...or if...) you take a social media vacation? How do you spend your time? Do you have any fears associated with being "disconnected"? 
  • When was the last time you looked at page 5 or 10 of a Google search? What did you find? What about on page 20? Pick five general search topics and report on what turns up at first...and buried a little bit. 
  • How does use of social media reinforce your own political/economic/business/personal belief system? How often are you exposed to ideas different from your own? Do you have a source of balanced information? How do you choose what is true and what to question?
  • If you have time and are interested, read Zuckerberg's Facebook essay, "Building Global Commitment." What does it tell the reader about his plans for Facebook?