The Corporate Takeover No One Saw Coming
April 1, 2009
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Facebook. It’s undeniably one of the biggest forces within our society today. Since its creation five years ago, the social networking site has grown from around one million active users within its first year of existence to over 175 million currently. What once started as a site for college students to keep in touch with high school friends has turned into an influential social and business whirlwind for people of all races, ages, nationalities, and walks of life. While these statements are irrefutable, the question remains: why has Facebook become such a driving force?
One obvious reason the site as a success is its role as a global entity. People from all over the world can join the site and immediately access other people. According to Facebook’s fact sheet, 70% of the site’s users are from outside the United States. Americans are quick to assume that Facebook is an American phenomenon since it was created here and has become such a craze within our nation’s society. However, with over 35 translations available, Americans are clearly not the only people enjoying the site.
Another major factor in Facebook’s success is its networking capabilities. As a freshman entering UNH back in 2005 (wow, I feel old), joining Facebook and adding everyone from Botwinik Hall as a friend added an element of instant friendship that didn’t exist otherwise. For someone shy in new situations such as me, being someone’s “friend” on Facebook made it easier to break the ice. Not only did I get to know my roommate a little bit before moving in with her, but I was also able to find people with similar interests and majors without having to weed through numerous people or introduce myself a thousand awkward times. I remember finding out that a girl down the hall from me had two of the same classes as I did. Instead of having to walk into my first college classes alone, I was able to do it with someone that I already knew in a way.
Now, the site has grown to allow for networking within your office, your community, or even your block. Older people have joined Facebook to catch up with high school or college friends. New employees can build friendships within the workplace. Soccer moms can set up play dates as simply as writing a message on their neighbors’ walls.
Which brings me to my next point: age. Facebook membership was once limited to college students. The site was simply a way for college students to meet and/or stay in touch with other college students. Because of this, the site was essentially a hub of drunken party pictures and obscenity-filled messages on walls. Gradually, membership grew to include high schoolers and eventually everyone. Even still, the major users continued to be young people: anyone under 30 years old.
Any frequent Facebook user can tell you that all that has changed. Within the past six months or so, an increasing number of members have become people us college kids would call “old:” anyone older than 30. I first noticed this trend once UNH administrators like Becca Kitchell and Greg Overend starting having profiles. My eyes opened a little more when my older sister, in her late 30s, added me as a friend. Quickly, I noticed that many of my friends’ mothers were becoming members. The final straw that made my jaw drop was hearing the chair of the Communication Department, Dr. Steve Raucher, say that he was going to make a profile. I stared in disbelief. Since I took Public Relations Writing with him sophomore year, he has been telling students to delete our profiles immediately. While I agree that Facebook creates a potential hazard for those applying for new jobs (specifically college graduates), I never saw the need to completely leave the site. As long as people regulate the elements that exist on their profiles, potential employers are not likely to ignore candidates on the basis of their Facebook membership.
The utter truth is that Facebook is changing every minute. On its fact sheet, the site claims that “more than half of Facebook users are outside of college” and “the fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older.” Yet, I’m still surprised when friends of my parents and even my dad’s 80-year-old aunt suddenly become members. The site has grown from strictly college networking to a site that brings together not only friends, but coworkers, neighbors, and distant family members. It has quite literally brought everyone from around the world together.
Even with its dissenters, it is quite clear that Facebook is becoming the final word in social networking. Personally, I can’t wait to see how much more it grows in the next five years.