On occasion someone will ask if I am on Facebook. According to figures put up by Jolie O’Dell last Thursday on Mashable, the facebook based news source, such a question would seem silly, like asking if I have color television at home. The more sensible question might be, how often do you use Facebook? But then, Ms O’Dell answers that question as well. In fact, she answers a lot of questions about the social networking phenomenon launched by Mark Zuckerberg and friends in 2004. Facebook could be labeled accurately with any of a dozen adjectives, among them fantastic, incredible, scary, life-changing and mind-numbing. But we know all that. What I did not know until reading the numbers on Mashable is this:
• As of 2011, 500,000,000 people use Facebook.
• One in every thirteen people on earth is using Facebook, half of them logged in on any given day.
• In the age bracket from 18-34, 48% check Facebook first thing upon waking in the morning.
• 28% check Facebook on their smart phone before getting out of bed.
• 70% of the userbase resides outside the US.
• 57% of people talk to others online more than they do offline.
• 48% of young Americans get their news through Facebook.
• Over the past New Year weekend 750 million photos were uploaded to Facebook.
• Facebook users who LIKE drugs is up 1131.9% this year.
This last statistic raises the question, how did Facebook compile this number? You have to assume that the ‘I like drugs’ chatter is extracted from the public side of user postings. Mmm… Like I said above, definitely scary, and very Orwellian—Big Brother is watching!
Which leads me to review what it is about the whole concept of Facebook that worries me. There is no question that Facebook challenges the parameters of privacy. The very nature of the super network is connected to the opening of doors, of reaching out and touching someone, facilitating ‘communication.’ I’m just not sure we aren’t also communicating information to people and agencies we don’t know. Sound a little paranoid? Okay.
Then there is the question for many of cultivating a need to communicate mindless prosaic trivia. “I’m at Starbucks having a pumpkin macchiato!” This sort of urgent texting is addictive, I believe, and helps create a dependency to always be in touch. No, I don’t think I am mixing Facebook up with Twitter, since I really do know people who use the two interchangeably for short messages. Is there any consolation in thinking that many of the 500 million don’t use facebook so indulgently?
But now back to the beginning. Am I on Facebook? Despite the encouragement, no.