17 Years of Facebook

Posted 04.02.21

It’s now 17 years since roommates Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes set their Harvard student directory site live. 

Fast forward just 17 years and the impact the site has gone on to have is almost incalculable. Not only are there close to 2.5 billion monthly active users of the site but it now owns three of the four of the most downloaded mobile apps in the world with the company valued at over $700 billion.

Not only that but it has said to influence elections, accelerated the spread of misinformation, and amplified hate speech against minority groups in India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Russia and across the world with many now claiming the site is where the worst of humanity has manifested. 

Here are the thoughts of our team here at Wilderness on the impact Facebook has and continues to have from those who have lived with it. 

Early stan – Taylor Biegler, Account Manager
Growing up in the States, I have been an active user of Facebook since the beginning when it emerged as an exclusive social platform for American University students. I have engaged and been an active user for the past 17 years as it evolved into the massive global social tech giant it is today.

My opinion has evolved as the company evolved. At the beginning I found Facebook to be a revolutionary social platform upscaling tech drastically from platforms like Myspace to new levels of digital social connection. As the tech and popularity grew, I saw the benefits grow, specifically for marginalized communities. Facebook was providing a space to connect with like-minded people that did not exist in our physical local communities.

At the same time, I saw the privacy of users start and then continue to dwindle while misuse in the form of fake news and hate speech increased. All the while, Facebook was also acquiring more competitor brands developing a near-monopoly in the industry. So even if people were not engaging with Facebook directly, they were influenced by it non the less through its subsidiaries such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

My opinion now? Facebook has the power for great good and great harm. If we can harness the incredible tech and ability for constant global connection while establishing and enforcing a rigorous ethics code that prioritizes privacy, truth, and monitoring of hate speech, the company can set a moral precedent for the rest of the tech giants to follow. 

It’s complicated – Zoe Smith, Strategist
I’m assuming I’m like most people: just trying to forget/ignore the fact that big tech, and Facebook, in particular, is actively trying to control my life. 

My relationship with Facebook started back in 2008 – where signing up for social media one year shy of the legal age limit was my (only) tween rebellion. It quickly became part of my social life. It wasn’t enough just to have friends anymore, you had to prove it by writing your adoration of them on their wall (2021 me is cringing), or posting photos of you hanging out together. And how many friends you had was now an issue too – if you had anything short of 300 you were basically a social pariah. 

By the time I graduated high school in 2014, my usage of Facebook had become almost non-existent. Other apps, like Instagram and Snapchat, were more fun and interesting and didn’t have my grandma on it. I’ve largely stayed away from the platform, which feels clunky and stale – the only updates I see are when my irresponsible friends get married or have children. 

In hindsight, Facebook was the gateway for other social media apps to crawl in and shape my teenage, and young adult, years. Without Facebook or its successors, who knows what I would have done with the time I spent online-stalking crushes, or painstakingly practising makeup so my tagged pictures wouldn’t look grotesque? Maybe I’d be a doctor or something.

Mostly thanks to one brilliant Aaron Sorkin movie, I’ve become aware and wary of Facebook’s true power outside of my own usage of it. Sure, connecting with anyone and becoming a part of a like-minded community has never been easier. But that can breed insulation to other points of view, and we’ve seen the gravity of that in recent years – President Trump, anyone?

Facebook heralded in a new age of social media, and though the platform is largely seen as a dinosaur to my generation, it has continued to prove its dominance by catapulting us into a new, post-truth era. And with its acquisition of other social media companies – notably Instagram and WhatsApp – I can safely say that Facebook’s power grab is equal parts gauche and terrifying. 

Do I fully understand what my data is? No. But do I want Facebook to have all access? Also no. 

All work no fun – Jamie Maple, Managing Director
My own usage of Facebook has fluctuated over the years. Back when everyone was using it to reconnect with schoolmates and share photos I would spend hours curating albums with ‘clever’ titles and ‘funny’ captions in order to make my friends laugh and make other people jealous of all the fun I was having.

Ironically my personal interest really started to drop off once I began working in social – logging into my account felt so much like a busman’s holiday. In contrast, I was using the platform all day every day speaking to users, planning content and scheduling posts on behalf of some of the biggest entertainment brands in the world. I’ve never really fallen out of love with Facebook. 

It can be maddeningly unintuitive to use (the first time checking out Business Manager I broke out in a cold sweat) and my personal feed has mainly become a ghost town of game invites and quilting updates from my mum. But ultimately it’s still a great place to build, nurture and grow a community. 

In a professional sense, it’s not a platform I’d readily give up on when it comes to creating a brand presence.

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