10 years of Facebook, 10 years of global change
Today is Facebook’s 10th anniversary, and now seems as good of a time as ever to reflect on how the social network has changed us. For better or for worse, Mark Zuckerberg’s revolutionary forum has been incredibly impactful in more ways than one. Here are a few ways that Facebook has changed social media and society as a whole.
Most notably, Facebook completely redefined our online social culture and created unprecedented social norms. With Facebook came “share culture,” where it basically became socially acceptable to share news of the bargain you got at Bath & Body Works on the same forum where your sister might share news of her marriage. Gone are the days of discretion. According to Facebook’s unspoken law, if it can be typed out, it’s worth sharing.
This can be seen as an immense blessing or annoyance. In most cases, it’s a little bit of both. In essence, Facebook is an incredible tool, as it provides instantaneous communication over multiple kinds of media: photos, videos, written updates, media shares, games and more. With “share culture,” though, you aren’t just getting overwhelming exposure to the mundane happenings of people you haven’t spoken to in years. Rather, Facebook’s “share culture” has made way for a new kind of popularity — one based less on reality than on the web.
Social media is being used increasingly less as a tool to stay connected to distant family and friends. Much of today’s youth shares photos and status updates with the sole intention of increasing their social media presence and subsequently increasing their popularity in the real world. Social media presence is seen as an appropriate gauge of a person’s overall popularity and importance.
Have a significant social media presence, and you’re assumed to have a heightened importance. Share your social life unbarred via social media, and you’re assumed to have a heightened popularity.
It’s as if Facebook is a digital record of one’s relevant socialization. If it wasn’t digitally documented, it didn’t happen or it didn’t matter.
Fear of missing out
Because of the impact that social media has on a person’s real-world value, many users tailor their real lives around supplementing their social media lives. Girls who wouldn’t otherwise care about getting dressed up will throw on some lipstick in the name of a new profile picture. A picture of you and your friends that you’d otherwise delete from your phone now goes on Facebook — after all, it shows you spending Saturday night out with friends to people who may have spent the night alone.
Because social media (unfortunately) makes everyone aware of what everyone’s doing at any given time, it can lead to many users feeling excluded. Users who otherwise wouldn’t have a clue what their classmates or peers were doing have been put into a position where they’re comparing their social lives to others. Lose that comparison enough times, and Facebook can have lasting, self-destructive impacts on its users.
The news, expedited
Before Facebook and the advent of mass-market social media, the news spread more slowly. There was news on television, radio, print media and digital journalistic sources. Check all four mediums throughout the day in 2014, though, and you’d likely be the minority.
Because of the impact that Facebook had on digital media as a whole, national and international news spreads at a breakneck pace. With Facebook, news outlets like CNN, NBC and ABC were given a medium to reach beyond their standard age and racial demographic. Facebook created a way for news outlets to instantaneously reach millions with a status update or photo share, expediting the way today’s news is spread and shared.
Instead of having to check four mediums for the day’s happenings, Facebook gave users the luxury of checking one medium for the happenings of their friends, family and nation. In fact, the Poynter Institute reported in 2012 that 30 percent of Americans under 30 use social media as their main source of news.
Not only did Facebook change the way that news is reported, but it also changed what Americans consider “news” to begin with. Sure, things like Miley Cyrus’ rise to worldwide infamy and the digital Harlem Shake craze were certainly noteworthy in 2013. However, the fact that they were the 7th and 5th most-talked-about topics on Facebook in 2013, respectively, makes it seem that the nature of our news is changing.
Much of today’s digital news is based less on importance and more on what media outlets can “run with,” so to say. Simply put, there just isn’t as much creativity in reporting on current events as there is in reporting on Justin Bieber or Sharknado.
Take a topic like Miley Cyrus, and the media sites to which Facebook gave a platform suddenly become more and more relevant. With Cyrus, you can get a Buzzfeed article about the 27 ways Cyrus’ tongue looks like a swollen earthworm. You can get a breakdown on how Cyrus’ behavior is a slap in the face to feminism from the Huffington Post. Sure, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post might exist on their own, but the digitalization of today’s news has made media outlets like the two inexplicably more relevant. It’s also made things like Cyrus’ tongue become more newsworthy, which simply couldn’t have happened in an earlier era.
With buzzworthy topics, you get memes, GIFs and things that couldn’t otherwise exist without social media. Without Facebook, much of today’s social media wouldn’t exist, either.
So here’s to you, Facebook. You’ve been there for the good times and the bad times. You’ve been the one we all go to when we need to share the news of a great deal we just found at the outlet mall, and you’ve been the one we go to when we need to scroll absentmindedly through our steamy RA’s tagged photos.
It’s been a wild ride, and we can’t wait to see what else you’ve got up your sleeve.
(Here’s a hint: if it’s got anything to do with stopping Mafia Wars or Candy Crush requests, I think you’ll satisfy the masses.)
Senior staff columnist Cara Smith is a communications junior and may be reached at [email protected]