A friend of mine on Facebook shared a series of inspirational postcards made by his friend. One of them had a headline saying that 1,330 years are spent on Facebook everyday based on a citation that 700,000,000,000 minutes are spent on Facebook everyday. I was about to click Share on the photo but decided to do a quick check on the math.
First, I searched for that fact. I found the link below from Facebook saying:
50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
Average user has 130 friends
People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
I quickly shot a message over to the creator of the postcard correcting his citation and saying that's a monthly stat not a daily stat.
Then I decided to do the calculation myself. I expected the the number of years to go down. However what I got was this:
700,000,000,000 minutes = 1,328,172 years per month
1,328,172/30 days = 44,393 years a day spent on facebook
Let me write that again. 44,393 years a day. 1,328,172 years a month.
[Slide created by Cory Jim of Empowered Presentations]
This made me think of a quote from from Stephen Hawking:
"For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen. Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking, and its greatest failures by not talking. It doesn't have to be like this. Our greatest hopes could become reality in the future. With the technology at our disposal, the possibilities are unbounded. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking." This was used in Pink Floyd's song "Keep Talking" from their 1994 Album "Division Bell." [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aNugsnUuIs]
Faebook has unleashed an unprecedented conversation. The world is talking. We are talking in the micro-scale and the macro-scale. The social graph is much about a conversational graph as it is about our physical connections that tie us together. In the end, as Hawking points out, humanity's saving grace could come from continued talking. This conversation can never be bottled up again. The pandora's box of conversation has been unleashed and we can never be muted again. No government can ultimately stop it. And this organized conversation is not a tower of babel but a tower of meaning. In all this historic time spent people from around the world are coming closer together, reconnecting and re-architecting the landscape of our shared humanity.
The good that will potentially come in the decades ahead from the world coming together in a way and scale never before seen will be Facebook's legacy. That legacy will be defined by the very product decisions made by Zuckerberg and team. I have said before that Facebook's product and policy decision have more effect on humanity than most governments let alone any other companies. It is a heavy burden to have but one that holds so much potential for good if handled well. The key is make those decisions and make sure that they are learning from and informed by the very character and evolution of humanity's conversation.
Finally, as a research nerd, seeing these staggering numbers makes me yearn for more efforts to support science and research projects like SETI and genetics research. More product innovation in the future could be done to support education and reading. Imagine a social Khan's Academy for example. Some of these innovations could come from Facebook and others by other developers building on top of Facebook. Facebook if leveraged this way at this scale, using simple social game mechanics, could potentially contribute to the solutions to many global issues through the crowd-sourced contributions of millions of people. Wouldn't that be something?