PsychBook Research

Collecting and analysing psychological research on the most popular social networking site in the world today.

Face of things to come: The philosophy of Facebook


(Credit: Audrey Fukuman,

As I predicted, the privacy debate about Facebook came to nothing, as it appears that Facebook growth ACCELERATED in the last month, thereby proving the old adage that ‘any publicity is good publicity’. The bottom line is that the vast majority of Facebook’s users really don’t care enough about the privacy issues to stop using it.

However, at the same time, I wonder how many users agree with Facebook’s underlying philosophy, which is to: Making the World More Open and Connected”. This is the unofficial mission statement of Facebook, which we recently discovered, via Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarre quasi-Masonic hoodie design (above), as he sweated his way through a terrible performance at the All Things D Conference.

The bottom line is, if Facebook want to make the world more open and connected, then that implies a belief that people inherently want to share and connect with each other – there’s a certain assumption about human nature built into that statement which must hold true for it to succeed – for the net to work. As I’ve said before, I think that this only holds true for a certain subset of the population, but of course I could be wrong.

He’s also recently said that he expects to have one billion users of Facebook, at some stage though not this year. That link has some interesting comments from Zuckerberg himself, including a now-customary gaffe (he doesn’t seem to think there’s much difference between running a public company to a private one!). There’s also a more in-depth interview over at Inside Facebook, but to be honest, for all the ‘exclusive-ness’ of the title, I don’t think he gives much away.

So, that’s what things will look like in the near future: a billion people in the same system, all sharing and connecting with each other, in a more open world. But what does this mean for human psychology?

I can say a few things with absolute certainty.

1. It’s pretty naive to think that this won’t affect our psychological make-up. You can quote me on that: ‘Social networking sites will change human psychology’. Seriously – consider the alternative: using a novel communication system, for significant and regular periods of time, for a sizeable fraction of the entire human population, will have no effect on our subjective experiences? Yeah, right.

2. There will be both positive and negative effects, which will effectively cancel each other out over time. People will eventually get used to social networking, but it will take a while. Since the earliest introduction of ‘technology of the self’, there have been concerns about mental health, and this one is no different: we’ll get over it. What changes use of social networking will have on human psychology I can only speculate on, but I do intend to find out shortly – watch this space!

3. Facebook’s growth will not be stopped by technical or privacy issues, both of which will be continue to surface, and be loudly debate by the ‘tech élite’, because the public at large doesn’t care about them. Facebook will only be challenged if  a rival platform emerges, which is not only better designed, more technically sophisticated, and all that type of thing, but which is built on an alternative philosophy – a different view of what it means to be human. I do wonder how long that will take ….

Categories: Opinion