Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced today that the social media platform has surpassed 200 billion users every month. The growth has been said to come from a focus on developing countries and regaining lost users. Zuckerberg’s response to this growth was one of excitement and responsibility, he said:
“We’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together.” -Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook started in 2004 and reached 1 billion users in 2012. The social media is the most used platform with YouTube a distant second with 1.5 billion users every month. What’sApp and FB Messenger both have 1.2 billion but they are also owned by Facebook. The obvious staying power of Facebook is evident in these numbers and their strategy of gaining new users in developing countries and regaining users who had left Facebook is paying off. What do these numbers tell us about the state of Social Media and the Internet? (If they really are two different things.)
1. Your kids are probably on Facebook.
The joke has forever been that once parents started using Facebook the kids jumped off. In reality, your kids are most likely using Facebook again. The reason they’ve returned is simple. There is more there to offer. The option to adjust what they see on their timeline and what ads they see are appealing and the AR camera and story feature in Messenger and the Facebook app has come a long way to entice former users to give Facebook another try.
2. The entire world is available to your kids on Facebook.
Two billion users is almost a third of the entire world. That means the influence available to your kids is more global than ever. When you add in the other social media services your kids use the globe just gets even smaller. Every idea anyone has or has ever had is available to your children through social media. Every thought anyone has or has ever had on any topic is available to digest and use to develop their own beliefs and thoughts. The influence of the world available on social media has changed the way our kids grow up and what they believe tremendously and the more these services like Facebook grow the more confusing some of these voices can be. There is, of course, a great opportunity to help your kids understand the larger world they live in but you have to help them navigate that world in a healthy way.
3. Your example of internet citizenship is more important than ever.
The globalization of our kids’ influences through social media should be a wake up call for parents. We need to understand the responsibility we have to keep our kids protected from the many dangers that are available to them online and to teach them how to be a good citizen of the internet. What do we do when we see something that could be fake or click-bate? Do we fall for the trap? What photos do you share? Are you smart with how you broadcast your location? These are all important safety concepts that our kids have to understand. The best way they’ll learn this wisdom is by watching us implement it ourselves.
Facebook is proud that they’re the pinnacle of social media greatness. Mark Zuckerberg is emphasizing the responsibility they have to use this influence to bring people together and not tear them apart. Recent news and election cycles have been an example of how social media can cause people to ignore facts and strengthen their own beliefs with information from sources that haven’t been proven or vetted at all. Facebook is doing what they can to curb this trend. The reality, however, is that it’s up to us as the citizens of these social media services to make the right choices and to teach our kids how to do the same thing. The responsibility lies with us, not with Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook. These tech giants are going to make choices based on what is right for their companies and we, as parents and leaders, have to step up and make the choices that are right for our families.