Updated: December 27, 2010
As you may or may not have heard, TIME magazine has chosen Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, to be its man of the year for 2010. Now, the title itself is as useful as herpes before a cruise to the Caribbeans. There's little grandeur being listed on the same page with the likes of Hitler, Stalin (twice), Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev (twice), and George W. Bush and family. However, it's far more intriguing and important to examine the reasons for the nomination. How come and why?
Today, I will do just that. Through this ridiculous nomination, we will examine our society and its fads, once again, including the irrational fever called Facebook, which for no good reason has become THE buzzword, and it's being continuously repeated with oligophrenic quality and persistence worldwide.
You can't nominate someone for creating a website
And that is what Facebook is. A snippet of Web code retrieved by browser requests. No more, no less. It's not an online world. It's not a fashion. It's not an outgrowth of our society. It's just a piece of ethereal, digital thingie hosted on blade servers in a compute farm somewhere.
Your life has NOT changed
Although you may be tempted to believe your insignificant life has changed because of the technology called Facebook, you still need to get up in the morning and eat your cereals, poop for half an hour while reading a book and work in an underpaid, unsatisfying job position for the majority of your life. If you get sick, you may need antibiotics, which are not provided by Facebook. To go to work and school, you will use the marvels of public transportation, which, again, are not provided by any online service. You may get divorced or mugged. These unhappy events will occur in the physical world, with no virtual friends to assist you. Farmville won't make you richer, improve your cognitive skills or make a good line in your resume.
Furthermore, should the electricity flow to your computer falter, be it the loss of signal at your router or modem, the malfunction of your hard disk or a temporary outage at the local power station, it will be all for naught. The online world will cease to be. Gone. As dead as this planet will be after a Cosmic Gamma Ray Burst event.
|First you eat a nice breakfast, trying to avoid fried potatoes or similar nonsense, like real men do ...||... and then you perform the ritual morning visit to the lavatory, where no amount of social networking is going to help|
The world that counts
When people say, the entire world is using X - what they mean to say is, the parts of the world that we like to count in our equation, that is. Do you need convincing? Let's take a look at the Visualizing Friendships, a paper written by Paul Butler, an intern on Facebook's data engineering team. An intern means someone with coding skills doing the hard work. And the map of the world is the digital representation of who has who as a friend in their friends list on Facebook.
I won't be posting the image here, for copyright reasons, but you are welcome to click above and examine the picture for yourself. You may notice that Russia is a blank. There's no Russia on the Facebook map. Strange, don't you think? The reason is simple. Russians have their own social network called odnoklassniki.ru, where you can search for your former Soviet buddies with ease and precision. EVERYBODY in Russia is using this network. There's a hundred million people or more utilizing this service, and it's been around long, long before Facebook.
In absolute terms, Facebook is bigger, because it caters to the whole world, but it has only 10% spread or less. On the other hand, odnoklassniki has between 30-100% prevalence, making it a far more efficient and useful service, even though it caters to only about 300 million people.
But no one has ever mentioned this social network in any of the "important" newspapers or magazines, because in the bubble of illusion called the Western World, it's not interesting. There's no Farmville on the Russian site.
Most of the African continent is also dark. So in reality, you have users in USA and Europe. So I'm asking again, how has the world changed? USA and Europe have approx. 500 million people, roughly the number of Facebook users. It's the 20% that eats 80%, Africa remains the unholy scapegoat of this world, and no one wants to talk about Russians or Chinese, even though they may have superior technologies.
If you're interested to learn more about odnoklassniki, take a look at their About page (in English). I'm not particularly fond of this service either, but it should serve as a mind-opener for anyone who takes running water, electricity, medicines, and high-speed Internet for granted.
At the end of the day ...
At the end of the day, nothing has changed. NOTHING. So there's a website where you can login and read messages written by others. The format and styling has changed a little. So? What's so special about it? What's so revolutionary and life-changing that you didn't have before? How's Facebook different from MySpace, Google Buzz, ICQ, and a handful of other technologies? Just take your random pick.
The worst part
The worst part is the self-convincing religion of the whole deal. Like the browser tab-on-top saga. A meaningless change that is now the holy mantra of the browser wars. Everybody has the Like buttons on their sites, because they are supposed to have them, right. I can understand why personal blogs would do that, but government websites, meteorology services, online shops, operating systems. C'mon. For example, Jolicloud lets you login with your Facebook credentials, provided you have the Internet connection, that is. Why? What's so special about letting people with Facebook login and not people with odnoklassniki or a Baidu account?
For all practical purposes, Baidu is far more significant than Facebook. It's the first Chinese company to trade on NASDAQ. It's the seventh most popular website in the world, it alone caters to 1.5 billion people, three times the user pool that Facebook has, it is growing at a speed-of-light pace, and unlike Facebook, it actually provides useful services. But then, it's not as interesting as the panoramic split-image bullshit you can do on your Facebook page. Because why we would care about the biggest, oldest civilization in the world when we have Farmville? Ah, humanity ...
The TIME list is skewed. It's an American list after all, with half a dozen American presidents there, none of which deserve to be there. Why wasn't Pol Pot chosen as the man of the year? He managed to exterminate 21% of Cambodian population during his reign. Isn't that an achievement? What about John Lennon?
I don't see that many women on the list, either. Do they not count? Apparently, it seems. Who gets to make these meaningless lists, anyway? Someone with a major in journalism, who can't spell Baidu, it seems. Which brings me to my real heroes ...
Real heroes, real men of the year
You won't hear about them, because no one cares about them. No one wants to hear about doctors saving lives, firefighters rescuing people from burning buildings or scientists trying to better this world with the research of cures of disease or the invention of technologies that make a difference. Enrico Fermi made far more impact on the world than you can possibly imagine, but no one mentions him. Jonas Salk has saved countless millions of people from Polio, but he's just a honorable mention in the halls of fame.
The list goes on and on, people who made the real impact. Even if we want to focus on the world of computing and the Internet, then Sergey Brin, Bill Gates, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, or Donald Knuth all deserve far more praise and honor than a social network founder, but they are not controversial or camera-cool.
This is not a rant against Facebook or its founder. Good for him. The smart lad realized he could make money from people's stupidity, so he did. The problem is with everyone else who worships the trends. What's wrong with you? How can you be enamored by a social network? Are you mental?
The world is not a Hollywood movie. You don't have to be an insensitive, money-grabbing prick with a decent mugshot to become a meaningful person. You don't have to maul people into pulp with your greed and senseless ambition to make a change. And most importantly, you don't have to give anyone praise for being that. By acknowledging the hypes of our would-be modern society, you give legitimacy to normalized stupidity.
When you link to social networks and/or "popular" things, you are not merely helping your website or service increase its exposure, you are also contributing to those networks. If you believe in what they're doing, then fine. But if you don't even pause to think for one moment, then you might as well be condemning puppies to death or taking pennies away from orphans. Using Facebook means more than just having virtual would-be friends in the crapposphere out there. It also means you endorse what Facebook is doing, its use of YOUR private data, its mission statement, its goal, its intentions, its policies, its decisions, everything. Just don't go crying to mommy like a drug addict when the Internet goes dark on you. To give you a radical example, would you join a network that physically executes its least popular member every month? Would you still want to be a part of the online experience? That's all. May you have a meaningful life.