Facebook

From FYSE 1396: Digital Media Literacy
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Facebook is currently the world’s largest social networking site boasting a community of over a billion members from all around the world.[1] Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerburg and his Harvard classmates, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes, Facebook was only originally intended to be a social networking site for Harvard students but it was quickly expanded to include other elite universities, and in 2006, everyone over the age of thirteen could register an account on Facebook.[2]

History

Between 2006 and 2009, Facebook experienced enormous growth, surpassing MySpace as America’s most popular social networking site in 2008 and becoming America’s second most visited website in 2009 (after Google).[3] In 2011, Facebook partnered with Skype to introduce one to one video calling.[4] In April 2012, Facebook purchased Instagram for a billion dollars.[5] With twenty seven million members at the time of its purchase, Instagram was quickly integrated into Facebook while still remaining a own stand-alone app.[6] In May of 2012, Facebook went public, opening at thirty-eight dollars a share making it worth a hundred and four billion dollars: the largest initial valuation ever.[7] That having been said, Facebook’s IPO is generally considered a failure because it lost almost twenty five percent of it’s value within a month of its initial offering.[8] Irregardless of Facebook’s shortcomings and polarizing position in popular discourse, it’s an extremely popular service that allows people to stay connected with friends and family, share important information, and advertise goods and services.

Analysis

Although Facebook constantly changes its layout, like many other social networking sites, it relies on three key features: “profiles, public testimonials or comments, and publicly articulated, traversable lists of friends.”[9] When you sign up for Facebook, it will generate a profile for you. Profiles are individual pages that represent individual users. On your profile you have to option to list personal information (relationship status, education level), upload photos (Facebook currently has over 50 billion pictures uploaded), and show your connections under your “friends list.”[10] Facebook then allows users to add to their friends profiles by posting comments, links and photos. It should be noted that while individual privacy settings can be adjusted, on Facebook, users must be friends to contribute to each others profiles.[11]

By looking at the seven key concepts that Nancy Baym outlines in her book, “Personal Connections in the Digital Age,” it’s clear why Facebook is so successful.[12] Unlike any other other social networking site that has preceded it, Facebook now has the advantage of size. It’s reach is tremendous as it is now the largest social networking site in North American, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. With 1.15 billion people registered on Facebook, almost a sixth of world’s population now has a Facebook profile.[13] Furthermore, with the mobile app, Facebook can be accessed from almost anywhere. In 2013, it was reported that 874 million people accessed Facebook through the mobile application. Facebook’s size and influence on popular culture are so huge that some people are joining simply so that they don’t miss out on experiences.[14] More and more, event are being planned, conversations are being had, and information is being shared, exclusively on Facebook.

Besides Facebook’s gravitation pull, it has extremely rich textual cues. Whether users want to communicate through text, photos, video, video calling, or event the ‘like button’, Facebook gives users the ability to convey meaning and build community in hundreds of different ways. Furthermore, because of it’s structure, Facebook allows for both synchronous and asynchronous communication. With video calling, messages, and an automatically updating newsfeed, you can communicate with your friends in real time as well as leave your notifications and messages for another time. Moreover, because Facebook’s structure allows users to view posts, photos, and conversations from any time, it’s accessibly can be a double edged sword. The downside is that Facebook’s searchability and permanence can be extremely damaging later on. For children that grew up with Facebook, anything they posted when they were younger will always exist be accessible.

Another key feature of Facebook is the ability it gives its users to share and replicate and information. Whether that’s sharing links, pictures, or videos, Facebook gives it’s users the ability to take information and then share it to a potentially massive audience. With precise digital copying techniques, in many cases, it's become impossible for users to differentiate the copy and the original. These features are precisely what allow campaigns such as the infamous “Kony 2012” to go so viral so quickly.[15] Additionally, with Facebook's recent incorporation of the 'hashtag', it's becoming easier to share information to a large group of people. While your posts used to only be accessible to the people on your friends list, users that aren't on your friends list can now see your posts by searching for your hashtag. The recent addition of the hashtag represents the website's effort to connect users with a broader community of people who share their interests, thoughts, and ideas. While publics used to form around community pages and groups, the addition of the hashtags allow users to partake in a more dynamic, fluid communities.

Although Facebook does have some apparent security issues, its reach, replicability, mobility, temporal structure, storage, and ability to deliver social cues have placed it at the top of the social networking hierarchy where it’s likely to stay.

References

  1. "Facebook." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  2. "Facebook." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  3. "The Ultimate History of Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]." RSS. Social Media Today, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  4. "The Ultimate History of Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]." RSS. Social Media Today, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  5. "Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion, Turns Budding Rival Into Its Standalone Photo App." TechCrunch. TechCrunch, 12 Apr. 12. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  6. "Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion, Turns Budding Rival Into Its Standalone Photo App." TechCrunch. TechCrunch, 12 Apr. 12. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  7. "Facebook." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  8. "Facebook." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  9. Boyd, Danah. "Why Youth Heart Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life." The Berkman Center for Internet & Society Research Publication Series 2007.17 (2007): 118-42. Social Science Research Network. Web. Oct.-Nov. 2013. <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1518924>.
  10. "The Ultimate History of Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]." RSS. Social Media Today, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  11. "Facebook." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  12. Baym, Nancy K. Personal Connections in the Digital Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2010. Print.
  13. "The Ultimate History of Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]." RSS. Social Media Today, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  14. "The Ultimate History of Facebook [INFOGRAPHIC]." RSS. Social Media Today, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.
  15. "Kony 2012." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 30 Oct. 2013.