“I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.”
–Betty White, “Saturday Night Live”
“Knowledge is power,” wrote Sir Francis Bacon. There’s little doubt Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg grasped this when he created his vision for social networking eight years ago this month. Whether you consider Facebook a miracle or a monster, there is no doubt it has changed the way people relate to each other. It also made Zuckerberg one of the youngest billionaires in history.
This year, Facebook is expected to garner its billionth user. It already has more than 845 million users, or roughly one-seventh of the world’s population.
With billions of dollars in earnings, Facebook has in the works a much-anticipated initial public stock offering. The success of that IPO will do much to determine if social networking and the accumulation of what was once deemed personal information translate into raw wealth.
Regardless of how well Facebook’s IPO does, there is one truth about it and other social networks: The members who sign up are giving away their privacy and anonymity.
I find it irritating to watch people obsessing over Facebook. I am in my mid-50s, and I have no desire to share my life with so-called friends who can pass any of my information on to anyone. My wife and I have three children in their 20s who, like many of their generation, are avid Facebook users.
It has been my observation while shopping, walking in the park or driving that multitudes are either reading Facebook posts or updating their statuses. The numbers back me up. Facebook reports that it has 415 million mobile users.
Whether on the laptop at home or on the street with a smartphone, it appears that the principal reason so many people spend so much time on Facebook is to learn and spread gossip.
Evidence that many of my generation are upset over social networking was demonstrated this month when a North Carolina father, Tommy Jordan, responded to his daughter’s disrespectful Facebook rant by shooting her laptop and putting the video on YouTube. Jordan’s video went viral, receiving more than 2 million views in the first couple of days.
Jordan’s daughter had written a long Facebook post in which she complained about her chores. She didn’t suspect her dad would find her online tirade, but he did. He was especially upset by his daughter’s use of profanity in her post.
“This is for my daughter, Hannah, and more importantly, all of her friends on Facebook who thought her little rebellious post was cute,” Jordan said before riddling her computer with bullets.
I don’t endorse shooting computers. It is too much like Elvis Presley shooting TVs. I do understand that many older people are angry that our kids seem to give their lives over to their “friends” who number in the hundreds or sometimes thousands on Facebook.
I also realize that Facebook isn’t just for young people. Social Media Today reported in April 2010 an estimated 41.6 percent of the U.S. population had a Facebook account.
A friend told me at a Christmas party that he has more than 2,000 “friends” on Facebook. I still can’t comprehend that number.