Person of the Year changed the face of communications

Remember when ‘friend’ was strictly a noun? The fact that it is now also a verb provides just a small sense of the impact that Mark Zuckerberg has had on society, and why he was designated Time‘s Person of the Year.

Just a few years ago, sociologists were warning that the Internet was diminishing social interaction (and social capital). Now, 500 million friends later, Facebook (and myriad other social networking sites) has turned that around. In the process, it has changed the way we communicate. When is the last time you spent an evening watching television without catching a few commercials that mention the companies’ Facebook page? If you’re in the communications business, how often are the communications products you produce  used on a Facebook page?

For anyone trying to communicate a message, Facebook (and its predecessors and challengers) has changed not just the rules of the game, but the playing field. It has contributed to one of the biggest changes brought by the Internet: Turning public communications into a two-dimensional field, transforming passive audiences into participating networks. The Internet has presented twin challenges and opportunities: How to use it as a communictions tool, rich in potential with large, segmented markets — and how to use it as a listening tool. How people feel — about everything, it seems — is out there, like low-hanging fruit ready to be plucked. The question of course is how to harness that information, and analyze and present it in a way that will be helpful to those seeking to communicate a message. We’re learning more about each other, or at least getting more raw data about each other, and Facebook is a big part of that. 

Zuckerberg is the second-youngest  person in Time magazine history to get the annual designation. The youngest was Charles Lindbergh. There are a lot of differences between these two pioneers, but one thing in common. They both made the world a smaller place.

Allan Golombek

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