On FB Anniversary: A Look back Or A Look Forward?

By Farrukh I. Younus
Freelance Writer - United Kingdom

Over the years, the platform has grown with now over 1.23 billion users of whom over 850 million are mobile users

At its onset, Facebook was a platform that challenged the ‘social networking’ norm. Unlike many of its competitors that would charge to access their service, FB offered and continues to offer a ‘free’ mechanism for sharing and viewing information.

I had eventually joined the platform migrating across from another site, Naseeb, with a group of my on-line friends. Almost instantly, I gained a new community for exchange where photos, text and links could be shared without the stringent bureaucracy offered elsewhere.

Over the years, the platform has grown with now over 1.23 billion users of whom over 850 million are mobile users. FB has not only become a tool for delivering richer content but as a means of communication broken down barriers between people and nations.

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Perhaps the most striking example of this is FB’s indirect involvement in the ‘Arab Spring.’ While the outcome in Egypt may not have been as desired, particularly after such a positive start, FB’s influence should not be underestimated as Tunisia recently announced it’s new constitution, which according to commentary far and wide is both progressive, supportive of women’s rights, and even takes into account the environment.

Of course, on paper, everything looks good and this includes FB demographics. Where once we would chose our friends and engage with them, the volume of information being shared across FB means that they have had to create a number of mechanisms to help better manage this. Unfortunately, a by-product is that sometimes very good friends, the ones you do want to stay in touch with, stop appearing in your newsfeed. This results in missing out on updates, which are more relevant to you.

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In response, one of FB’s leading competitors WhatsApp has filled the gap. Friends who once used FB as their sole platform to organize events now create various groups on WhatsApp where they know for certain that a message sent there will reach everyone in the chain in time. However, on account of FB’s predominance, WhatsApp hasn’t replaced FB, yet.

In 2013, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey across 39 Muslim countries, which included 38,000 face-to-face interviews across 80 languages. While usage varied across countries e.g. 59% in Kosovo to 2% in Afghanistan, the average usage was at 18%. The report writes, “Muslims who use the internet are much more likely than other Muslims to have a favorable opinion of Western movies, music and television.” Crucially,  Muslim and Christian users of the internet found more in common with one another than those who do not use the internet. (1)

After stating that we have all been created differently, the Qur'an clearly advises us, as humanity, to get to know one another (c49: v13). Traditionally, this would have been through the means of travel. Today, all any of us have to do is switch on our computer, tablet and increasingly, our phone.

A Look Forward

It is true that people of different faiths, different interests, different associations will tend to interact within the confines of their comfort zones, the sporadic algorithms of FB, particularly as the platform seeks to commercialize itself further means that random content and activity will occasionally find its way into your newsfeed. And while as individuals, we may not always respond to such information in as positive a light, that we are exposed to it, becomes a form of learning and tolerance.

Perhaps then the greatest challenge offered by FB is its ability to remain relevant in an environment of new and copycat alternatives. But just like any early innovators, it is the creativity of the platform that will enable it to grow, reflected no better than in its own anniversary gimmick as my own newsfeed is populated by friend’s Lookbacks - my own included a photo with famed Malaysian designer Jimmy Choo which I had forgotten!

At a time when so much of our information is available at the touch of a button, also of concern should be how much of that information remains private. The recent NSA revelations make us all question the integrity of our privacy on-line. Sadly, our apathy towards such revelations demonstrates how little care we attribute to it. Irrespective, with time, as digital citizens, our expectations for better privacy will grow.

As we grow through the digital age, our learning’s, our expectations and our needs will change both individually and also as a community. FB is already a part of so many of our lives, and so long as it continues to innovate, this will make it remain relevant, being a positive contributor to engagement, change and entertainment for us all.

Happy 10th anniversary!


(1)  Quotes from an article by T Chase Meacham on PolicyMic

Farrukh I Younus has a background in mobile phone strategy across Europe and Asia, and has visited China on more than 25 occasions. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the European Parliament in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences. He currently runs a video platform, Implausibleblog, delivering lifestyle content via social media; where his focus is on understanding consumer behaviour with regards to digital content and digital advertising. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.

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