5 things Facebook has changed in modern society

28 Aug 2015

Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg

More than 1bn people used Facebook in a single day at the start of the week, bringing about the latest in a long line of landmarks for the social media giant.

As founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the time, in just one day “one in seven people on Earth used Facebook to connect with their friends and family”.

Sure that’s a creative way of looking at numbers – accounts are not people – but it was a striking figure, nonetheless.

“When we talk about our financials, we use average numbers, but this is different. This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world,” said Zuckerberg.

More than 87pc of the 968m people who log into Facebook every day do so by a smartphone or tablet, showing mobility as a truly disruptive force in modern society.

But Facebook is the leader in utilising that platform.

Since its inception way back in 2004, plenty has changed. And when it comes to social media, plenty of that is down to Facebook.


Perhaps the biggest effect Facebook has had on our lives is the entire realigning of our relationships, be they family, workplace, background, educational or interest based.

For example, gone are the days when such trivial issues like remembering birthdays were a problem. Now you get an update ahead of pretty much every major milestone, telling you a who turns 21 today or whose wedding anniversary is tomorrow.

Your family is listed, your parents commenting on photos you post, your siblings telling you about a funny article they read on Waterford Whispers.

Your friends – which we will get to – are on Messenger, ensuring you communicate with them via text rather than tangible interaction to such a degree that, when you do meet up, there may be little to discuss.

But that won’t matter, really, because now any awkward silences can be filled by trawling through your Facebook feed, to see what your other friends and family members are doing.


Before Facebook became the behemoth it is today, ‘friend’ and ‘like’ meant completely different things.

A dozen years ago, a friend, broadly speaking, was someone you spent time with, enjoying their company, advice and attitude.

Similarly, liking something involved an emotional involvement, arousing your interest, immediately creating a preference for the object you liked over any you did not.

Now friend is a verb. You friend someone, the activity being more practical than emotional, reducing the significance with every click of your mouse.

And for every action there requires an equal and opposite reaction, so you can unfriend people now, just as easily. Click, click, click.

Liking something no longer deals with preference, merely show. You like images, stories, videos, adverts, criticisms, rants, whatever. Click, click, click.

Ironically, if in the 1990s your friend continually spent time on a computer clicking a like button rather than spending time with you, you probably would have unfriended them a long time ago.

Holiday spam

An old running joke used to revolve around how some people insisted on showing you their holiday photographs upon returning back to regular old ‘home’.

A slideshow – far more manual then than now – would be a boring, deathly unenjoyable experience for everybody except the hosts.

Now this slideshow is drip fed to us on a continual basis. No point telling us that you were at the Grand Canyon yesterday, we know, we saw when you instantly uploaded those geotagged, captioned images in real time.

Spending your honeymoon in India, away from the monotony of life and work?

Why not spend your time taking photos, commenting and responding to ‘friends’  back home.

Hell, you might do them a favour, your update may be filling an awkward moment they are struggling to get through.


When at a party, you should never talk about politics or religion. It’s a great premise, as those topics are so divisive they can really wreck the mood.

Not anymore, though. Life is a party and, with Facebook your host, tell the world!

Hillary Clinton going for president of a country you’re not from? Tell us why she’s humanity’s ideal. Referendum coming up? Rant about why your views are normal, and those who oppose such are weird.

You might even get a few likes and friends if you do it right.

Any political movement needs a Facebook presence, for both disseminating information and absorbing the clickable adoration of its followers.

Now news is spread through Facebook – a massive shift. It is only this week that figures revealed Facebook as the key portal whereby news is disseminated to the masses.

Everything has changed, in what feels like an instant, into an ongoing instantaneous process.


There’s no way to ignore the devolving of personal privacy that has come about since the dawn of Facebook.

Hardly the only reason why we now have far too much key, personal, ‘private’ information swirling around the web, still Facebook’s role has been telling.

That could be as simple as you sending a ‘private’ message to someone, or it could be photos of your past that you wish were in a dusty old album, rather than a timeline, on a comment-heavy platform with a 1.5bn user base.

Your face is known around the world, your preferences listed with logos and brand names adorning your home page. Many people post their phone numbers, email addresses or even actual addresses.

Try and picture a scenario where this would be considered acceptable at any stage in history, pre-2004.

This is all without even getting into the ongoing Europe v Facebook trial.

So the social media giant hasn’t just benefitted from the shift towards an online reality, it has helped to shape it.

Main image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic