Mark Zuckerberg Has His Eye on the Global Community as Facebook Enters Its Adulthood

After 13 years of focusing on connecting friends and family, Facebook is taking the next step

The 13th birthday marks the beginning of adulthood in the Jewish religion, as well as the minimum age to have a profile on Facebook. And for Facebook, which celebrated its 13th birthday Feb. 4, it also marks a passage into the next stage of life.

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg penned a lengthy note to the social network’s users, delivering the message that after 13 years of focusing on connecting friends and family, Facebook is taking the next step, with plans to develop the social infrastructure for a connected global community. Highlights follow:

Zuckerberg said in his introduction:

This is a time when many of us around the world are reflecting on how we can have the most positive impact. I am reminded of my favorite saying about technology: “We always overestimate what we can do in two years, and we underestimate what we can do in 10 years.” We may not have the power to create the world we want immediately, but we can all start working on the long term today. In times like these, the most important thing we at Facebook can do is develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us.

For the past decade, Facebook has focused on connecting friends and families. With that foundation, our next focus will be developing the social infrastructure for community—for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement and for inclusion of all.

He added that there are five important questions Facebook must answer:

  • How do we help people build supportive communities that strengthen traditional institutions in a world where membership in these institutions is declining?
  • How do we help people build a safe community that prevents harm, helps during crises and rebuilds afterwards in a world where anyone across the world can affect us?
  • How do we help people build an informed community that exposes us to new ideas and builds common understanding in a world where every person has a voice?
  • How do we help people build a civically engaged community in a world where participation in voting sometimes includes less than one-half of our population?
  • How do we help people build an inclusive community that reflects our collective values and common humanity from local to global levels, spanning cultures, nations and regions in a world with few examples of global communities?

On supportive communities, he shined the spotlight on Facebook’s groups feature, writing:

Online communities are a bright spot, and we can strengthen existing physical communities by helping people come together online as well as offline. In the same way connecting with friends online strengthens real relationships, developing this infrastructure will strengthen these communities, as well as enable completely new ones to form.

We recently found that more than 100 million people on Facebook are members of what we call “very meaningful” groups. These are groups that upon joining quickly become the most important part of our social network experience and an important part of our physical support structure. For example, many new parents tell us that joining a parenting group after having a child fits this purpose.

There is a real opportunity to connect more of us with groups that will be meaningful social infrastructure in our lives. More than 1 billion people are active members of Facebook groups, but most don’t seek out groups on their own—friends send invites or Facebook suggests them. If we can improve our suggestions and help connect 1 billion people with meaningful communities, that can strengthen our social fabric.

Going forward, we will measure Facebook’s progress with groups based on meaningful groups, not groups overall. This will require not only helping people connect with existing meaningful groups, but also enabling community leaders to create more meaningful groups for people to connect with.

Zuckerberg discussed Facebook’s Safety Check and Community Help features in his section on safe community:

To prevent harm, we can build social infrastructure to help our community identify problems before they happen. When someone is thinking of committing suicide or hurting themselves, we’ve built infrastructure to give their friends and community tools that could save their life. When a child goes missing, we’ve built infrastructure to show AMBER Alerts, and multiple children have been rescued without harm. And we’ve built infrastructure to work with public safety organizations around the world when we become aware of these issues. Going forward, there are even more cases where our community should be able to identify risks related to mental health, disease or crime.

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