This is the first blog post at my new home of philobrien.com. Hello to former readers of the Personal Network blog – and welcome to new readers. I hope to cover a wider range of topics here. I am especially keen to comment on what is happening in the worlds of old, new and social media. Other issues on the agenda will be “future work”, “visual communication” – and, of course, personal networks.
The recent changes to Facebook have really got me thinking again about their role in our world. You might have read previous blog posts Is Facebook the “McDonalds” of your Personal Network? and LinkedIn – Love it or cancel it!? Facebook – don’t know what to do with it.
I was brought up a Catholic in Liverpool. Weekly trips to church – and lots of talk about Souls and The Devil (then lapsed at 18 and never went back!). In recent times, I have read and watched to try to understand how the world got in to such a financial crisis. Part of my “education” on the subject of the financial crisis has been watching the excellent film “Inside Job”. It is a compelling (and deeply worrying) story of how deregulation and “toxic instruments” like Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) were used to bundle up sub-prime mortgages. I recommend you watch the film.
Anyway, back to Facebook. Where do they fit in with these trains of thought? Well, I think we are happily trading chunks of our social capital for the free services that Facebook (and others) offer. It’s a bit like being invited in to the Casinos at Las Vegas – those free drinks are tempting us to make poor judgements. You might look at Facebook (here you should include in your thinking Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al) and consider their financial model. They are not making money (or significant money) – but are worth billions. Why is that?
Well, my feeling is that they are taking chunks of our social capital, bundling that together in batches of 10 million users – and then setting a share price for these bundles. Their balance sheet is our aggregated social capital.
More individuals “loaning to FB” their social capital = more value
More individuals “swapping” their social capital within FB = even more value.
I could write a long article about this – but why not write your own and play this search and replace game?
Social Capital = Soul
Facebook = The Devil
FB Stock = Toxic Social Capital
In the last year, I have watched the revolutions that have taken place around the world. Many have been attributed to the social media generation using Twitter and Facebook. It’s been positive to see so many people standing firm against corrupt governments and taking back their countries. It has needed bravery and determination.
Many commentators now talk about Facebook in comparison to countries. Facebook’s own stats today tell me they have 800 million active users world-wide. In July nearly 50% of the US population where on Facebook – I suspect that is over 50% by now. So, if Facebook is the size of a country (in fact bigger than most) – what sort of revolution might take place? It would be an easy revolution – little bravery, no bloodshed. I’m intrigued to see if Facebook implodes. Will historians look back and ask “what where they thinking?”
Last week, I went to a play at the Theatre Royal in Bath called “Earthquakes in London”. It was a play about the impending doom caused by our generation not looking after the planet. It talked about a planet that would always survive – but could only cope with one billion humans, not the seven billion we are heading towards. There was a line where the actors talked about desperate Africans deciding they could take no more and walking to Europe en masse. Apocalyptic stuff! The same day, I had listened to reports that it is 75 years ago since the Jarrow March. Back in 1936 this was a march by 200 desperately poor, unemployed people from the north east of England to London. They covered 300 miles – and held a banner calling it the Jarrow Crusade.
We live in interesting (and unstable) times. We can learn from recent history that if things seem too good – they probably are. The financial crisis has shown us this – and we might think of applying this learning to how we consider our relationship with Facebook. On the bigger picture – don’t underestimate the power of large groups of people with a cause. The Jarrow Crusaders showed it 75 years ago – and the revolutions around the world this year have echoed the same. Where next? Is revolution coming on-line?