An article on the Inside Facebook blog reports that Facebook has grown to 175,000,000 active users with a growth rate of about 600,000 users a day in the past few weeks.
If Facebook were a country, it would now be the 6th most populous in the world.
Frankly I am not surprised. The pace at which people live their lives has dramatically increased, in the past decade especially. With many people living in a dual income household, or working second jobs, it’s hard to find time to ‘catch up’ with friends and family. For teachers the amount of time spent at home preparing lessons, marking work and maintaining their professional development can be a severe drain on your ‘home time’. Old ways of keeping in touch – hour long phone conversations, weekend visits, a night at the pub (eek – you mean I lose time tomorrow too!?) – are becoming rarer, and as a result there is so much pressure to make the most of time when you do see people IRL that the fun can be sucked right out of the experience.
When talking on the phone recently to a friend in the States (we normally use video call but the net was acting up) we found it very awkward at first trying to have a conversation without the benefit of the usual visual cues. There wasn’t even an avatar! And although we got used to it soon enough, it was easy to see why many people don’t relish using such cumbersome modes of communication anymore. Does this make us inherently selfish? Overly insular? I don’t know my own answer to that…yet.
What I must concede is that, for now, unless we want to miss out on ‘quality time’ with loved ones altogether, we will have to embrace (not reject!) these new modes of maintaining social connections. As we move towards re-defining our notion of what it means to have a ‘personal connection’, online communitcation will take on a more personal tone. And if this makes people feel more connected, isn’t this a good thing?