You Like This:How Facebook and Social Media are Taking Over the World

The present population of the United States is just over 300 million. The “population” of Facebook is over 500 million. According to their own press room, that’s just the number of active users. If it were a country, Facebook would be the third largest on earth (China and India being the first).

 

About a year ago, Facebook passed up Google as the most viewed website in the U.S.

 

How long has Facebook existed? Seven years. It was launched in 2004 by 19 year old Mark Zuckerberg as a networking site for college students at Harvard, and by the time it was fully opened to the public in 2006, it was the seventh most popular site on the Internet.

 

Earth’s population is growing at a rate of about 357,000 babies born per day, and Facebook is growing at about double that number of new users per day.

 

One of the big questions that people have is, why? Why is Facebook growing so fast? What’s the big deal?

 

Perhaps the answer lies less in Facebook itself as in the timing that the website appeared. The first few years of the new century brought in a generation equipped with tools of empowerment, the likes of which had never been known in the history of the world. These tools were invented by the previous generation, who like a curious scientist struggling to decide how to introduce his discoveries, laid them out for people to discover, just to see what would happen. Slowly people started taking notice, and by the time the millennial generation came along, those tools were both a normal and necessary part of daily life.

 

Growing up with instruments that facilitate every person with a voice and a platform to share that voice, the millennial generation restructured the foundation of global human communication in less than ten years.

 

The result? The economy changed; the workforce changed; school systems changed; and people changed. It became normal for anyone anywhere to be able to contact anyone anywhere. Groups surrounding a hobby, interest, or cause could gather instantly and without need of authorization or location. The term conversation was given an additional definition: an overarching worldwide discussion taking place at all times by virtually everyone. Whether the definition was ever authorized or not was irrelevant, because even the scholarly dictionaries were replaced by those created by the combined voice of the masses.

 

Quickly content became a thing as casual as the spoken word. A 30 second video of a friend at the zoo became more interesting than a 30 minute sit-com on TV. People stopped carrying family wallet pictures because it was faster and cheaper to send hundreds of photos to 250 friends across the country. And why give Aunt Joan a call to update her on the kids when you can carry an ongoing conversation with the whole family (and include your friends) using a blog, with photos, stories, and video clips of your kids doing the very things you would have told her about?

 

Where once upon a time you would connect with your heros by buying their posters and accessories, now you could communicate directly with the hero on their Facebook page. You could tell them personally how much you liked their concert or their game, and even get a response.

 

Facebook didn’t start these trends, and it’s not the only platform for social networking and media, but Facebook came along at a moment when there was a critical mass of demand for social networking platforms. Other sites such as Myspace, twitter, and the whole blogosphere have all been major players in this new approach to communication and connection. Some have been around much longer than Facebook. Facebook is just the biggest at the moment. The tools and platforms employed matter very little compared with the overall snowballing of Internet social networking itself.

 

The media we once consumed, we can now create – with laptops, phones, and various handheld devices. And while the quality of a two minute home video might not match up with a monstrous multi-million dollar Hollywood film, the two compete well, since the home-made social media can be created and starred by friends and family. Of course there will always be a place for good solid entertainment, but it now has to share a seat with the rising tide of social media – and not just because of the time used in consuming media, but also from the time spent in creating them.

 

Never in the history of the world has it been so possible for anyone – anyone, to publish content to the world. We throw the word “revolution” around in our common language so much that it’s lost a great deal of its power, but even by it’s heaviest definitions (such as a revolt or fundamental change in society), social networking has placed worldwide communication in such a state. The world has never seen such a influx of voices being broadcast by so many, to so many, worldwide, as it is today.

 

Some are troubled by these changes. Others are curious, frightened, or excited by them, but none of us can ignore them. The Internet, with it’s media and networking platforms, is as big a revolution as was the invention of the printing press – perhaps even bigger. The printing press made it possible for books to be printed in large numbers. Suddenly there was a way to share information with masses. It was difficult and costly to get a message out, but it was possible, and those with enough power or money were able to do it.

 

Now, with the platforms available to us on the Web, there is no way to prevent someone from being able to broadcast their voice to the world, in virtually any format, at no cost at all. Governments have been trying since the introduction of the Internet to curtail these voices, but quickly all blockages are breaking away. Not only are the governments unable to stop this flow of communication, but the voices coming through are uprooting the entire infrastructure of monarchies and top-down systems that attempt to silence their own people. Since content and information sharing is changing from a consumer model to a social/sharing model, groups congregating via Internet have much greater influence than even the most powerful corporations and governments.

 

Not only has this change provided for anyone anywhere to become a producer and broadcaster, but it is introducing new motivations and new reasons for broadcasting that have never been seen before. People are sharing personal, private information with the entire world. They’re producing amazing products and asking nothing in return. They are spending hundreds of hours creating ridiculously silly videos with the knowledge that they will never go to Hollywood or earn a single dollar from it.

 

But it’s not about the tools. Marshall Mcluhan said, “We shape the tools, and thereafter, our tools shape us.” While new tools are created by the technologically savvy and employed first by those who closely follow the trends, the technology employed by sites like Facebook and Twitter are really quite old compared to the newer tools mounting all over the Web. It’s the fact that they are old tools used regularly by a lot of people that make them socially powerful. Facebook’s basic setup is so simple that any new user can handle it. Scott Burkun said, “Technology is not an end unto itself. It is a facilitator. It enables us.”

 

This revolution is not about Facebook. It’s about the social networking trends that are shaping new tools of communication. As a society, this power is so new to us that we really haven’t figured out what to do with it yet. Accordingly, there are a lot of crazy conversations, bizarre businesses, and ridiculous rants happening everywhere, all mingled together with good, useful, powerful information.

 

Over the past few hundred years, mankind has developed a pretty effective method of sorting information that comes to us in the form of printing presses and books. Unfortunately, the information that we are now being flooded with via the Web does not have such an organized system. Yet the barrage of information and communication continues to flow in at an increasing rate. Much of the organization that must take place for media and communication will be social – by means of sharing, using increasingly effective tools.

 

Given the present trends, it’s quite likely that there will be a number of decades ahead that contain some measure of uncontrollable pandemonium in terms of what we do with these new tools. Even now, all over the world, people are either embracing or shunning new tools that come into society. Surrounding all of this is a wide range of excitement, frustration, and confusion. Some even demonstrate an almost laughable ambivalence. Thomas de Zengotita reflected the feelings of many when he said, “In the midst of a fabulous array of historically unprecedented and utterly mind-boggling stimuli… whatever.”

 

In some ways, it’s like we’re living in our wildest science fiction stories – the excitement and liberation we are experiencing keeps us going, much like the old 1980 atari games consumed hours of our attention in the past. But the tools aren’t leaving. They’re here to stay, but like the the Atari, they’ll get bigger, better, more efficient, more meaningful, and more interesting. It will be awhile before life with social media and networking become “manageable” again. But it will be what we do with these new tools now that will shape the direction of the changes that are coming.

 

And it won’t be the silencing of voices that will finally get things under control again – rather it will be when everyone chooses to take part and speak out – and they’re comfortable doing so.

 

Wow, that last sentence was rather profound… I think I’ll put it as my status update.

 

Sources:

Clay Shirky (WhippleHill Conference), author of Here Comes Everybody: http://www.whipplehill.com/news/podcasts/clayshirky.aspx

Youtube Project – An anthropological introduction to YouTube, The Machine is (Changing) Us: Youtube and the Politics of Authenticity

Digital Ethnography, Kansas State University: http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/

Socialnomics: http://socialnomics.net/

Ben Jones (WhippleHill Conference), Feb 16, 2010, Oberlin College Vice President for Communications and former Director of Communications for the MIT Office of Admissions: http://www.whipplehill.com/news/podcasts/benjones.aspx

Scott Burkun, WordPress in 2020, Wordcamp 2010 in San Francisco http://wordpress.tv/2010/05/01/scott-berkun-wordpress-future-sf10/

http://www.insidefacebook.com/

 

The Synergetic Novel: Episode 15

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A plump little man in hospital scrubs shuffled his way into the door, pulling a tray with a platter. He looked at Matt, showing an odd lack of surprise at seeing Matt awake.

“Wakey, wakey, eh?” the man said with a gruff scratchy voice, his face leaning in toward Matt’s. “Why it’s about time. You must be right famished. What’s it been, a day?”

“A day? How long have I been here?”

“Pshhht.” The sound was like the mix between a sneeze and huff, “that’s a doctor question, ‘fraid. I’m just a low nurse I am. Be needing your breakfast you will, I am sure.”

“Uh,” Matt said, looking up at the single muffin on the platter. It looked fairly appetizing, but Matt didn’t feel like eating at the moment, “I don’t think I’m hungry, really.”

The man eyed Matt wearily, and Matt could see a rather hastily shaven Continue reading

Episode 14

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Matt had very few memories of his parents, and he couldn’t tell how many of them were genuine and which were formed by a mix of old photographs and his own imagination.He had always had vivid dreams, too, especially in the last moments between sleep and waking. It was in such a moment that Matt saw his parents at a distance, wrapped in each others arms, just like in his favorite photo of the two. They were wrapped up in each other, as if they had the whole planet to themselves.
As he watched them, he felt a sudden urge to come to them, and began to walk toward them. With the great distance, Matt expected it to take a great deal of time to reach them, but as he walked, the distance closed so quickly that in only a few seconds he was nearly close enough to reach out and touch them. They turned, as if to look at him, but their gaze stopped at something beyond him. He turned around. Someone stood only a few feet from him, but as he looked, his vision blurred, and he couldn’t make out the face.

It was a man, he was Continue reading

SN: Episode 13

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(We apologize for our theme problems.  We’re in the process of getting them fixed.  If the audio doesn’t work properly, you can listen at http://chas.willowrise.com)

“Don’t be afraid!” the ghost said quickly, in a gentle voice, very unlike the violent tone he had used when he had last spoken to Matt.

For a moment Matt didn’t move, not sure whether to speak or run.  But before he could decide, the ghost said, “I’m sorry if I frightened you earlier – I should not have been so… abrupt.  But if you’ll give me a chance to explain, I think you’ll know why I did.  It was a mistake.”

“Who are you?” Matt asked, not sure whether to try to sound cautious or firm, “Why are you here?”

He walked closer to Matt, who again noticed that his footsteps made no sound.  But he was as vivid and real as any person, and his speech was clear, though he was now speaking low, almost in a whisper.

“My name is Nams Mourg, but you can just call me Mourg.  I have only been here a short time, but I have been watching you.”

Matt’s expression must have betrayed his thoughts, because Mourg said, “Oh, don’t worry.  I mean you no harm.  In fact, I am a friend.  I have only observed you enough to discover whether or not you could be trusted.  I am now confident that you can.”

Matt didn’t know whether or not he could believe Mourg, but what was he supposed to believe?  After all, he was speaking to a ghost, wasn’t he?

“You are here as… as a ghost, then?”

Mourg lowered his head.  “I am a ghost, of sorts, but I am not completely dead, either.  I’ll explain that in time, but yes, that is how I’ve been watching you.”

“Did you once live here?  Why are you here?”

Mourg shook his head.  He stared at Matt for a moment, as if deciding how much to tell him.  Instead of speaking immediately, he turned toward the living room.

“Perhaps we should sit.  We have a lot to talk about.”
“You are in great danger here,” Mourg said, sitting forward on the couch.

“Danger?  What kind of danger.”  Matt couldn’t help wondering how a ghost who walked through walls could sit on a chair without falling through.  Then again, shouldn’t he fall through floors, too?  He wanted to ask, but if ghosts were normally as sociable as this one, there was probably some kind of propriety issue involved with discussing what ghosts could and couldn’t do.

That thought made Matt wonder why ghosts seem to think it was acceptable to just come into people’s houses without invitation.  Didn’t they consider it trespassing?  But then, where would they go?  Certainly ghost culture would be quite different from living human culture.

Mourg stared at him.  His face was clear, and as Matt looked in his eyes, he felt an uncomfortable sensation.  Mourg looked quickly away.  “I hope you will come to trust me,” he said, “I know it must be strange for you to be talking to someone who… well, someone like me.  I understand.”

“What kind of danger am I in?”

“I’m sure you’ve never heard of Ions before?”  It was half statement, half question, and Mourg waited for a response.

“Only when you mentioned them earlier today.”

“They are pillagers.  They are constantly causing havoc and trouble.  But worse than that, they are organized and use strange magic to manipulate the world around them.  They are evil, and dangerous.”

Matt wondered if these Ions were ordinary people or ghosts.  They didn’t sound like a group Matt wanted to meet.  “What do you mean?  Who are they?  Where did they come from?”

“They call themselves Ions, but my people call them marauders.      They have a strange, twisted connection with animals, perhaps they are part animal.  They are from a distant land – a very distant land.  It would take some time to tell you everything, but know that they are both dangerous and powerful.”

“But what are they doing here?”

“I wish I knew for sure, but I can’t help thinking that you have something to do with it.”

“Me?” Matt asked, confused. “What connection would I have with them?”

At that moment there was a knock on the front door, and Mourg rolled back into the couch – IN to the couch.  Seeing it made Matt’s stomach turn over, and he hoped this was all some mistake that would clear up soon so he could get back to normal life.  Though completely out of site, Mourg’s voice was clear, “Remember, you’re in danger!  Do not trust anyone!  It could be Ion marauders, or a messenger.  Be careful!”

Matt opened the door slowly, ready to press it closed again if necessary.  When he recognized Alice from the library, he opened it further, but glanced behind his back. He didn’t want her to see Mourg, so he stepped out and pulled the door closed behind him.

“Hey!” he said, trying not to bump into Alice.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, backing up and nearly stepping off the porch, “I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”

“What, oh, no, I was just… no, it’s fine.  How are you?  It’s Alice, right?”  He felt silly, though he wasn’t sure why.

She smiled, and nodded.  “And you’re Matt.  I hope it’s okay I stopped by.  I found something I thought you might find interesting.”

“About my Uncle’s books?”

“And Nigel.  I guess I could have waited until you returned, but I found something that I couldn’t wait to show you.  Do you have Internet access at home?”

“Yeah, what did you – oh, uh, I mean, we had the Internet.  It’s not offline, er, online  – it’s down.”  Why couldn’t he bring himself to tell her about the ghost?  Was he just trying to protect her, or was he afraid of sounding stupid in front of her?  He had already done that.  What if she was an Ion?  Mourg didn’t get the chance to tell Matt much about Ions before Alice came.  His first time meeting her was this morning.  Maybe she had been set there to get information from him, which he had just handed over.

But that didn’t make sense.  First off, what would his uncle’s books have to do with Ions?  Second, Alice had been at the library when he met her, and no one knew he was headed there.  But then there was that whole thing about her acting like she already knew him.

“Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just tell you,” she said, “ I was looking at Google Maps, and I – what’s wrong?”

Matt didn’t look at her.  He was staring across the street.  Then in a low tone, he said, “Don’t turn around, but there’s someone watching us.”

But he said it too late.  She had already turned, and the moment she moved, the figure ducked behind a bush.

“What?  I don’t see anyone.  Where?”

Because it was now sunset, Matt had only seen a silhouette, though Matt thought it had looked more like a boy than a man.

“Wait here, I’ll be right back.”  He looked at her.  Her face showed amusement.  Did she think he was being silly?  Of course she did, but what could he tell her?  If he was being watched, followed, or pursued by someone, he didn’t want her in danger too.  “It’s probably nothing, but Alice, if anything happens…”

Now her amusement turned to suppressed giggles.
“What?”

She laughed out loud, “I’m sorry Matt, I couldn’t help it. You’re just acting so dramatic!”  She leaned in, and with a playful tone, whispered, “Should I play along?  I could act frightened if you want.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What? No, I’m serious, Alice, we could be in danger!”  If there really was a kid watching them, Matt wanted to be able to recognize him, and identify him.  If it was just a neighbor kid, so be it, but if it was an Ion, how would he know it?

He looked at Alice, suddenly wishing she hadn’t come over, but not sure what to do with her now.  At least if she saw Mourg, she would realize that Matt wasn’t just being paranoid.  “I’ll be right back.”

He moved quickly from his yard into the street, thinking his best chance was to simply startle the kid and get a good look at him.  Matt knew if he didn’t hurry, all chance of finding him would be gone.  Was he a spy of some kind?  Or perhaps a decoy?  If so, then he’d better be careful, there could be others waiting.  Barely had the thought formulated when a horn blazed and Matt turned in time to see headlights.  There was a loud screech, and after a sudden momentary impact, everything went dark.

This entry is originally from…

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Episode 12

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Alice sat down behind the information desk, exhausted at the end of a full day.  In the early afternoon, a school class had come on a field trip to the library, and Alice was the only one available to give them a tour and read to them.  Then after school let out, one of the local scout troops had come for some merit badge… something.  Somehow it felt like she was catching up on everything else for the rest of the day.  But now it was 8 pm, the library was closed, and the doors were locked.  She slumped back in the chair, tempted to fall asleep right at the computer.

She looked down at a paper next to the keyboard.  She had nearly forgotten about her research on local history.  The sticky note had the names of the books Matt Robinson had brought in.

There was something strange about Matt.  When he had come in the library that morning, he had been dressed in an outfit that Alice would have described as being appropriate for a mountain-man, and he was accompanied by a young kid of ten or eleven.  His attitude had been very direct and determined, though she had assumed that he was a foreigner.  He acted like he’d never seen the inside of a library before, and was very conscious of everything happening around him.

But when he returned in the afternoon, he was Continue reading

The Synergetic Novel: Episode 11

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Matt stared at her.

“Actually, it’s been a lot of fun to research,” the librarian said.  “This has always been a curious little town to me.  My Grandparents grew up here and own a house nearby, so I’ve been to visit often throughout my life.  When my Grandpa passed away I offered to move in with Grandma so I could attend school here.  She’s really independent but she’s grateful for the company.”

A teenage boy stood by, waiting to check out some books.  “Oh, excuse me for a minute,” she said, turning to the boy.

Matt watched her.  She spoke to Matt as though she knew him well.  Was she just a very trusting person, or was she mistaking him for someone else?  And how did she know Continue reading

I Need a Writing/Critique Group!

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——–THANKS EVERYONE!!! YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME!  We got a writing group together and we are now full.  But if you’d like, we can start some kind of system for helping other people group into writing groups.  Just let me know.  At any rate, I’m leaving the original article up anyway.———

talltab1 Hey, all you writers out there, I have a favor to ask!  I need to be in a writing/critique group, and I’m not sure where to start.  I would be happy to either join one that already exists or start a new one.

talltab1 I’m kind of out in the boonies of Sanpete, Utah, so I can’t meet in person very often.  Most correspondence would have to take place online.  I mainly write LDS nonfiction, so it would be good if it were an LDS group that can help me keep doctrine pure, but most of what I have so far is memoir type stuff anyway.
talltab1 I have done a tiny bit of fiction, but not much.
talltab1 Are you in a writing group that needs another writer?  Do you know other LDS writers that are looking for a critique group?  Please let me know!  Either comment or email me.  I know there are a lot of opportunities for writers living near the city, but it’s hard for me to get up to Salt Lake or Utah county, so your help would be appreciated!

Thanks!

– Chas

chashathaway@gmail.com