Facebook turned 12 today. To celebrate, the company put together a slew of news items to keep the spotlight on itself: personalized video and stickers for Friends Day, research that shows Facebook puts us 3.57 degrees from each other, and a prediction from CEO Mark Zuckerberg that by 2030 there will be 5 billion Facebook users (out of 8.5 billion people in the world). These are all mildly interesting (the research one probably more than the others) but it got me thinking about how long I’ve been using Facebook myself.
Unsurprisingly, it was Facebook that told me. When I fired it up, the News Feed promptly informed me it was my ninth year on the social network:
It just so happened that I joined Facebook on its third birthday and have been using the service for nine years straight. For three-quarters of Facebook’s existence, I’ve been using it. And honestly, unlike those who claim it is a time-waster or declare they are going to quit, I really value Facebook.
When I used the social network in high school, Facebook was a great way to kill time. But when I got to university, the communication value quickly became more and more apparent. I still use it for entertainment purposes (when I want to turn my brain off by watching random clips and catching up on what people have been up to), but my main use-cases are all about interacting with the various groups of people I would have no other way of keeping in touch with.
As many people have pointed out before, Facebook itself is replaceable — it’s the connections and the sheer number of people on the platform that can’t easily be replicated. Add the fact that Facebook is intelligently acquiring apps and startups, rather than merely trying to compete with other platforms, and what you really have is the first social umbrella company.
You could delete my News Feed and I would rely on other sites to get my “news.” You could remove my Facebook profile and I would just tweet all the links I normally share. You could remove Events and I would survive just fine.
But if my pick-up soccer group disappeared from Facebook, that would be impossible to recreate. If you deleted Facebook Messenger and all my chats, that would take a long time to rebuild. If you messed with all the photos I’ve uploaded and am tagged in, that would hurt.
Hell, one of my friends refuses to communicate on Facebook. He doesn’t have an account, though he’s always eager to use someone else’s if he can. How do we keep in touch with him? Facebook’s WhatsApp.
Facebook usage in Canada is higher than the global and U.S. averages. I’m sure that plays a part in how much I’ve become invested in the company’s various platforms. But even outside my big little country, Facebook numbers are impressive no matter how you slice them: 1.59 billion monthly users and 1.04 billion daily active users. And those are just for Facebook itself, the numbers for Facebook Messenger, Groups, Events, Instagram, WhatsApp, and so on are all equally impressive.
One in 7 people around the globe use Facebook every day. Zuckerberg is aiming for 5 out of 8.5 in the next 14 years.
Facebook wasn’t even around 14 years ago. There’s no way to attempt to predict if Zuckerberg will achieve his lofty goal. But right now, the numbers, and of course, more importantly, my anecdotal experience, show Facebook is here to stay. What forms it will take in 2030 is anyone’s guess, but Facebook will probably happily inform me that I’ve been using it for 23 years.