Is Facebook a Virtual Gravestone?
Lately, it seems that Facebook is always in the news. We’ve all seen the headlines explaining that Facebook is now worth more than $50 billion, how its founder, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world, how Facebook affects privacy and law enforcement, and on and on… While all of these topics are certainly open for discussion and interesting in their own right, many of them miss the mark. Facebook isn’t just a service that can connect the world, it can also connect generations. In this article, I’d like to talk a little about how Facebook may grow in ways that very few of us are talking about today but may in the future.
With over 500 million members, and a market valuation of over 50 billion dollars, it seems that Facebook is here to stay. Over the years, corporations come and go. Most companies, even large ones don’t last much longer than 100 years, and no one knows if Facebook will be one of them. With that said however, it’s important to ask ourselves how it will affect the world if it does.
If you were one of Facebook’s original members, some one who joined while in college, using your .edu email address. You’re probably at the stage in life where all your friends are having children. Some of you probably already have children. If so, it’s likely that either you or your friends have already posted photos of your children on Facebook. In fact, a recent study says that 82% of kids under 2 years of age already have an online presence. This means that if Facebook were to make it to 100 years, this generation would be the first to have been Facebooked about their entire lives, from birth to death.
This is important because Facebook has not yet addressed some of these concerns. What happens when these children grow up? How can they take charge of their pre-existing online persona? What happens if they decide they don’t want to be on Facebook? While these decisions are still about 10 years away, these are all the privacy concerns that as parents and users, we should be concerned about.
As our children grow and start to become more and more interested in Facebook, how do we as parents interact with them? Do we really want them to see how we interact with our peers? To see how we interact with people that we have been friends with on Facebook for decades? Do we want our children to see updates from our youth? Will Facebook develop tools to not only protect our children from others, but to also protect us, as parents, from the prying eyes of our children?
The Virtual Gravestone
As our generation ages, it’s inevitable that many of us will pass away over the next few decades. During this time, the number of deceased members of Facebook will inevitably grow larger. How will Facebook handle death and what will Facebook look like when millions of its members are no longer with us?
Death on Facebook is a sad but interesting topic to talk about because in a way, it provides us with a way to live forever. Not it a physical sense, of course but when we die, our thoughts, photos, memories, and actions on Facebook will live on. For those of us who have been unfortunate enough to have a friend or family member on Facebook pass away, you may have noticed that those accounts come alive with activity on birthdays or special events, as friends stop by to pay their respects. In a way, Facebook becomes a virtual gravestone so to speak, where friends and family stop by to leave a message or just to reminisce.
In addition, Facebook can do more than just to help us mourn the passing of a loved one. It can even provide our children and grandchildren insight into who we were, what we did and thought, it will become a historical database of millions of people who were once members. This could become a resource that none of us had growing up and something our descendants might grow to treasure.
Most businesses that last the test of time start out doing one thing and ended up doing something else. AT&T started out providing telegraph service, now they are in the mobile phone business. While it’s too early to say what Facebook will look like in 100+ years, it’s safe to say that a company that started out connecting friends and family could end up not only connecting the world but also connecting generations.