Social Networking

Earthlings Flock to Facebook by the Billion

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday announced that for the first time more than a billion people had used the site on a single day. The counter hit the milestone earlier in the week, on Monday.

Nearly 1.5 billion users log on at least once monthly, according to Facebook, but Monday marked the first time that more than two-thirds of its members used the network on the same day.

The company has seen stratospheric growth since its launch in 2004 — it counted its one billionth user in October 2012.

Although growth is continuing from a global perspective, Facebook may have reached its zenith in the United States, Europe and India. It has shifted its membership focus to Africa, other Asian countries and Latin America, and is otherwise expanding its reach through numerous acquisitions and the introduction of new features.

“Reaching a billion people in a single day is nothing to sneeze at, but in many ways Facebook simply represents another successful step in the evolutionary journey of automated mass communications technologies,” said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“What the company has done more successfully than prior technologies — including telephony, email and Web browsing — is to effectively personalize the experiences of its billion-plus users,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That enables the company to be a powerful force in its chosen markets.”

Making a Better World

An open and connected world has the potential to be a better world, as it could bring stronger relationships as well as a stronger economy and stronger society, Zuckerberg said in his post.

However, he didn’t actually address how using Facebook to share daily doings and photos actually might contribute to a stronger economy or a better society.

“Assessing the social and cultural impact of Facebook is analogous to doing it for the Internet as a whole,” said Greg Sterling, vice president of strategy and insights at the Local Search Association.

Facebook has been a critical and positive communication tool for individuals, and for some progressive political and social movements, he told TechNewsWorld, “but like all technology, it’s not an inherent force for good in society. It’s a question of who’s using it and how it’s being used.”

Social Media’s Good and Bad Sides

Social media — Facebook included — has been used both for positive and negative purposes.

“Facebook has been responsible for making corrupt governments more transparent, as we saw in 2011 with the fall of the Egyptian regime,” said Lon Safko, social media consultant and coauthor of The Social Media Bible.

“Facebook has opened lines of communication on a worldwide scale, and has allowed everyone who has access to a smartphone the ability to join the global conversation,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Facebook has given every individual a global voice.”

At the same time, Facebook has become a recruiting tool for the terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a fact that Zuckerberg has failed to address, added Safko.

As with all communication technologies, there “comes responsibility for Facebook to monitor and censor some communication on their pages — such as hate groups, exploitation, child pornography and other illegal activity,” he noted.

Emotional Junk Food

Facebook has the potential to be harmful on a smaller scale as well. It can contribute to feelings of unhappiness and depression, especially among users who become deeply attached to it.

“For many, social media can be a kind of ’emotional junk food’ substituting for real human — offline — interaction and intimacy,” observed Sterling.

That said, “Facebook and social media more broadly do contribute many positive things to individual lives and the culture, by expanding the ways and ease with which people can communicate with one another,” Sterling added.

“When there are more than 1 billion people using a platform, there are going to be both positive and negative use cases,” he said. “It’s up to Facebook and to us as a society to make sure more of them are positive than destructive.”

Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and fitness-related trends for more than a decade. His work has appeared in more than three dozen publications, and he is the co-author of Careers in the Computer Game Industry (Career in the New Economy series), a career guide aimed at high school students from Rosen Publishing. You can connect with Peter on Google+.

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