How important is Facebook?

How important is Facebook? Last week the popular social network celebrates its 12th birthday

Flavio NienowLakes District News


Last week Facebook celebrated its twelfth birthday (I know, I feel old too). This social network, which has been around since 2004, now has about 1.6 billion users.

Have you ever stopped to think just how much this social network has changed your life?

Maybe it was a subtle change. Maybe before Facebook you took photos of your meal and sent them by regular mail to all your friends. Then they had to send you a letter back saying that they ‘liked’ your photo (I can only imagine this was a very long process).

Or maybe this social network has significantly changed your life. For someone who has travelled a lot like me, I know for a fact that I would have lost touch with dozens – maybe hundreds – of people had Facebook not existed.

Sure, maybe posting photos of your meals is not the ideal use of this social network, but I find it absolutely incredible that I know what my friends in Australia ate for lunch today. Sure, you can call distant friends once in a while to catch up, but being able to follow their routines, see their photos and know what they’re up to on a daily basis is an incredible thing.

Facebook has become one of the most used social networks in the world, and on its birthday users decided to share just how much their lives have changed over the last 12 years.

Last week Twitter was flooded with the hashtag #BeforeFacebookI (and I confess I got a little distracted while looking for examples for this editorial because some of those posts were hilarious). I selected a few of those posts because I know you will relate to at least some of them:

“Before Facebook I had to stalk my exes with binoculars and camouflage gear.”

“Before Facebook I adjusted my privacy settings by closing my blinds.”

“Before Facebook I never announced to every burglar in the surrounding area that I was leaving on vacation for two whole weeks.”

“Before Facebook I assumed everyone knew the difference between their, they’re and there. But we were wrong. Very wrong.”

“Before Facebook I only assumed I was left out of social occasions. Now I have photographic proof.”

“Before Facebook I had to go door to door and ask my neighbors if they liked the photos I took at the local Taco Bell.”

Last week the social network’s team also revealed just how closely the site’s 1.6 billion users are now connected to each other. Do you remember that ‘six degrees of separation’ theory which found that two random strangers could be linked via no more than five intermediaries?

Well, according to Facebook, we are getting more and more connected.

The degrees of separation between a typical pair of Facebook users have decreased to 3.57 degrees, down from about 3.74 degrees in 2011 (This might be a good time to try to connect with Oprah and see if she can solve all of our problems).

But if on the one hand Facebook has made us more connected, on the other hand it might have made it more difficult for us to ‘unplug.’ According to a study conducted by comScore Canada in 2015, Canadians are among the biggest online addicts in the world, spending an average of 36.3 hours browsing the Internet in one month’s time.

Facebook has certainly made it easier for us to connect with each other, but this might not be such a positive thing unless we are actually out in the world connecting with each other.