The online social networking service Facebook has virtually revolutionized the world of social media since it was first developed in 2004. Facebook has been a pioneering force in the use of social media for a variety of purposes. These include the cultivation of personal relationships, business activities, entertainment, and the advancement of political agendas. Facebook is a multi-faceted social media enterprise and allows for a variety of approaches to social networking. The network is an exemplar of each of the four pillars of social media: communication, collaboration, education, and entertainment. Facebook is a highly valuable resource for the advancement of virtually any kind of personal or professional project.
Facebook was the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg, who was at the time a student at Harvard, and several college friends. The initial idea behind Facebook was to simply create an online networking site for Harvard’s students, and this concept was later expanded to include students from several other major universities. In under a decade since Facebook was founded, the network has evolved into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. As of 2012, it has been estimated that the total equity of Facebook is 11.75 billion dollars. As of March 2013, Facebook has approximately 1.15 billion users, more than one-seventh of the world’s population (Lee, 2012). Facebook operates in seventy different languages, and now maintains another important social media outlet, Instagram, as a subsidiary.
Facebook in many ways symbolizes the revolution in communications technology that has taken place in the cyber age. Facebook allows the user to communicate, and cultivate personal relationships, in ways that would have been unthinkable until very recently. The network’s “friending” system creates opportunities for the individual subscriber to build a network of online associates from every point on the globe. The level of cross-cultural interaction Facebook has facilitated is immeasurable. Stories abound concerning old friends who have lost track of one another and then reconnected because of Facebook. Many examples now exist of people who have found their significant others or spouses through Facebook (Kirkpatrick, 2006). Clearly, Facebook has been able to bring people together in ways that would have previously been unimaginable.
The capability of Facebook to be utilized for educational purposes is likewise virtually unlimited. Since 2006, Facebook has included a news feed service as one of its regular features. Indeed, Facebook has now become one of the primary sources, or even the singular source, of news for many of its users. The news feed feature allows the user to consistently view news item from a variety of sources, and to subscribe to multiple news sources through a single outlet. The “sharing” feature on Facebook likewise allows the user to send news items to another page, or to their own “timeline” page where they may be observed by other viewers. This, in turn, allows for the widespread dispersal of news items on a “word of mouth” or “layperson” level (Breakenridge & Solis, 2009). However, a concern that arises concerning the use of Facebook as a news source or educational tool is the reliability of the sources that are being used. For instance, Facebook pages and groups abound that are havens for adherents of fringe political or cultural views, and the credibility of sources being utilized in the dissemination of ostensible news items is not subject to any screening process (Kirkpatrick, 2006). Therefore, Facebook can also be a forum for the promulgation of unsubstantiated rumors, or the promotion of outlandish ideas, such as conspiracy theories.
The entertainment capabilities of Facebook are overwhelming. Merely participating in various Facebook groups or communicating with those on one’s “friends” list is a source of entertainment for many people. Facebook also allows for the sharing of amusing graphics and images and even has its own gaming services. Users can create a virtual world for themselves through the network. Someone who would otherwise have a very limited network of friends or associates in their outward social life or local community can instead build a vast network of online social companions from all over the world. This capability can be of great benefit for persons with limited social skills, or whose mobility is restricted for physical, health, or financial reasons (Kirkpatrick, 2006). However, a criticism of online social networking services such as Facebook is that the amount of genuine intimacy or interpersonal interaction in social contacts is diminished.
The value of Facebook for the purpose of promoting business activities or advancing a political project is likewise enormous. For instance, the use of Facebook and other social networking outlets during the “Arab Spring” events in 2010 and 2011 is well-documented. Social media actually played a significant role in the unfolding of dramatic and far-reaching political change. In a less dramatic but certainly important context, candidates for public office within normal democratic processes have also incorporated the use of social media into their campaign strategies as a means of promoting their candidacies and the issues they wish to address. In other words, Facebook has the potential to profoundly influence political processes. A similar phenomenon is unfolding in the business world. Virtually any business of any size or that wishes to maintain an online presence, now maintains a Facebook page along with a website and a Twitter account (Lee, 2012). Facebook is also a forum for alerting potential customers concerning online shopping networks and consumer services.
It is clear that Facebook is a social media outlet that is of immense value, and can be utilized for innumerable purposes. Its capabilities in the areas of communications, education, collaboration, and entertainment are virtually limitless. Facebook is a resource that anyone seeking to promote a commercial enterprise, political endeavor, or educational project would likely find to be an important resource. Additionally, Facebook is also a valuable network for those seeking to simply build a social network or to entertain themselves. Facebook is an engaging resource in virtually every quantifiable way.
Breakenridge, D. & Solis, B. (2009). Putting the public back in public relations. New York: Pearson Education.
Lee, N. (2012). Facebook nation: Total information awareness. New York, NY: Springer Science and Business Media.
Kirkpatrick, D. (2006). Why Facebook matters: It's not just for arranging dates. Fortune, October 6, 2006.