What is the real legacy of Facebook?
Philip Ellison 06 February, 2014 at 10:02
Facebook celebrated its tenth birthday this week by offering users a chance to look back at their online lives in the form of curated video montages. This milestone also sparked a million and one think pieces on the impact that Facebook has had on the social sphere and society more generally. So what has been Facebook’s greatest contribution to the human race? For better or worse, here they are:
1. The English Language Will Never Be The Same
As a people, we sure do love to keep on adding words to our dictionary. And while we’ve been using “to Google” as a verb for what feels like an eternity, it is Facebook that has yielded the most additions to the English lexicon. Remember when we used to tell someone “I’ll add you”? No need to use that most basic of terms now that you can “friend” them instead. And why waste time saying that you wrote on somebody’s wall, or sent them a private message, when you can simply say you “Facebooked” them? And of course, who can forget “Like”, with a capital L. Most recently, “Unlike” was included in the Oxford English Dictionary, to describe online disapproval.
2. We’ve Become A Society Of Narcissists
Earlier peers like MySpace might have started it, and Instagram and Vine have become the organic successors, but there is no denying that Facebook was the website to convince us that everything we had to say was worth sharing, whether it be showing support for our favourite football team, protesting against conflict overseas, or simply telling the world about the amazing bath we just had.
Josh Elman, a former Facebook employee, credits Facebook with the importance we now place on sharing anything and everything: “Because of Facebook, sharing is now a human instinct.” Curiously, the over-share has evolved over time into the self-edit, wherein users only post content that paints them in a complimentary light; for example, only tagging flattering photos, or checking in constantly at trendy locations. This has been referred to as Facebook Image Crafting, or more directly, being insufferable.
3. Social Founders Are The New Rock Stars
‘The Social Network’, the critically acclaimed film about Mark Zuckerberg and the inception of Facebook, started a new trend. Before the film’s release, not many people outside the tech world had given much thought to who was behind their favourite online product. Now, a microcosmic celebrity culture surrounds people like Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner. They are celebrated not just as geeks done good, but as genuine innovators and thought leaders. Whenever they speak at a conference, the rooms are packed to the rafters with young developers and entrepreneurs, each of them hoping that a little of that Midas touch will rub off.
4. Cyber-Bullying Is Easier Than Ever
Again, Facebook is not alone in this. Pretty much any online platform runs the risk of attracting trolls and bullies who can harass individuals from the safety of a computer screen. But Facebook’s sheer size means that it gets its fair share of cyber-bullies, and the unenviable press coverage that comes with it. Last year, Facebook published an online safety manual to help concerned parents, teachers and young people gain a better understanding of how to use the site, and how to protect themselves from bullying.
5. Online Privacy Might Not Even Exist Any More
Facebook has, time and time again, found itself a part of the on-going global conversation about privacy. The site’s privacy settings change so often, and so seemingly arbitrarily, that it is hard to keep track of exactly what personal information is out there. Brian Blau, director of research at Gartner says: “I don’t think that Facebook fundamentally changed the privacy equation, but it brought it to the forefront… The tactics that Facebook used to get our data, and the resulting sort of implications on privacy, have really had a huge impact on virtually everybody in our country and around the world.”
David Holmes, a writer at Pando Daily, believes that “the real legacy of [Facebook] isn’t social media… It’s that so much of human experience is now filtered through apps or platforms, platforms that make the rules and change the rules whenever they like.” In short; Facebook set the pace at which consumers share content, interact with each other, and engage with their favourite brands – and an army of fledgling imitators have been racing to reap the benefits ever since.