It's a movement that can claim 550 million members who speak 75 different languages, and it is growing by 700,000 members every single day. What movement is this? No, it's not a religion or political ideology. The movement that can boast such enormous numbers is the community we know as Facebook.
The site was started in February 2004. In less than a year, a million users had joined the revolution. When I joined in 2006, around 10 million people were digitizing their relationships. Now, the number of users is equivalent to the size of a nation that would only be smaller than China and India. That's a lot of people.
Time magazine just named Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, as its "Person of the Year". According to Time, the award goes to the person who made the most significant impact on our historical and cultural footprint in 2010. Maybe it's a stretch to say that Mark Zuckerberg had a more significant impact than anyone else 2010, but a guy who can get 550 million users- or should I say "friends"? - for his product has definitely had an enormous impact on the world.
Chances are if you're reading this right now you have a Facebook. And if you have a Facebook, you've probably spent time on it in the last day or two. Or maybe even in the last hour or two. Or maybe you're updating your status right now. According to Facebook, its users spend a collective 700 billion minutes on the site every month, posting pictures, writing messages, updating their statuses, or poking each other. Each month more than 30 billion pieces of content - links, news, photos - are shared on Facebook. But Facebook's main mission isn't to share content; it is to connect people with their friends. And the company has done an incredible job of accomplishing that goal.
I'll be the first to admit that Facebook has helped me to create, develop, and even sustain friendships. Without Facebook, I wouldn't know some of my long-distance friends as well as I do now. But there's a catch to the relationship-building prowess of Facebook.
While Facebook can be a positive influence on relationships, it also has the potential to have a negative effect on relationships, and just on life in general. I'm not talking about the cases of marital infidelity caused by a Facebook relationship. Those sorts of things happen on Facebook, but people will have affairs with or without the influence of Facebook. The main problem I have with Facebook is that it can be a major time-waster. If you're on Facebook, you've probably spent an hour or more recently, wasting time looking at pictures or other people's profiles that could have been spent doing something constructive and edifying. If you're not, another guy is. After all, someone is racking up those 700 billion minutes of Facebook use every month.
Not only is Facebook the ultimate time-waster, but I've found that, as would be expected, Facebook promotes relationships, but often just the digital replica of those relationships. In Facebook's pursuit to create the perfect relational world on the internet, real-life relationships have been weakened.
My generation's parents and grandparents used to bemoan young people's lack of face-to-face communication skills. They had a point. But now, our parents, and in some cases our grandparents, are enjoying their own virtual worlds on Facebook. If we've lost the grandparents to Facebook, who's left? In our pursuit to become so connected to everyone around us whom we could conceivably know, our real relationships have suffered.
Up until this week I logged on to Facebook pretty much everyday. I've messaged my friends, chatted with them, poked them, commented on their walls, commented on their pictures, all the usual Facebook stuff. But at the end of the several years I've been on Facebook, after all the time I've spent on the site, I have to stop and wonder, am I really any better off for it? Sure, I have several friendships that probably wouldn't have occurred if it weren't for Facebook, but ultimately I've lost far more in time wasted on Facebook than I've gained through any friendships made because of it.
So, this week I decided to quit using Facebook, at least for a while. If any of my friends want to contact me, they now have to do it the old-fashioned way: with the phone. Or, in an even more old-fashioned manner: by sending me a hand-written letter.
Almost seven years ago Mark Zuckerberg started a revolution that resulted in people using Facebook to facilitate their relationships. Now I'm asking you to quit using Facebook, and join me in a new revolution that promotes real relationships in real-life instead of a digitized reproduction of the real thing.
Are you with me?