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The face behind Facebook: 29-year old Mark Zuckerberg. He created the social network back in 2004.

Since then, it’s exploded, spreading to all corners of the world, and transforming the way people communicate.

It’s become an essential part of lives of millions.

Person one: “Imagine my life without Facebook? Wow man. That’s a big question, huh?”
Person two: “Yeah, it’s good for keeping in touch with friends and family mostly. But most of my family live in Australia.”
Person three: “It’s nonsense; but good nonsense.”

The numbers speak for themselves: 1.2 billion users worldwide. Ten billion messages, 4.5 billion likes, and 350 million photographs uploaded per day.

Last year alone, Facebook recorded a turnover of more than 5.5 billion euros.

Social media is big business: companies, media organizations, and political parties use Facebook to connect with their target audiences.

That’s created a niche for so-call social media agencies, which shows clients how to market themselves on online networks.

Thomas Praus; Motivation, making money: “People have gladly taken up Facebook’s offer to link them up with friends and receive a daily dose of entertainment. In other words, people are happy there and the site has kept expanding.

Facebook has developed a business model which makes money.”

At Britain’s Cambridge University, 31 year old Polish psychologist Mikhail Kozinski, has been researching the impact of one of Facebook’s most powerful tools: the simple “like” feature.

He’s analyzed over 58,000 profiles. He sees every Facebook user as an open book.

Mikhail Kozinski; Dissertation, Facebook Analysis: “People give out a lot of information: they give out information about what music they like, what movies they watch, too. They also express their opinions by publishing status updates.

But in fact, they reveal much more about themselves.

Because these primary information can be used to infer a lot of secondary data, like your age, your gender, your sexual-orientation, your personality or your political views.”

Some of those inferences may seem a bit far-fetched. People who like curly fries are said to have above average intelligence, for example, while Harley Davidson fans are below average.

Mikail Kozinski has created a website where Facebook users can put their profiles to the test.

Law student Weselin Popov gave it a try.

Mikail Kozinski: “We see that Wes is slightly on the conservative and traditional side, not too much; he’s not very conservative. We can also see that Wes is also slightly on well organized end of the spectrum. Again, not an extremely organized person, but definitely there.”

These comprehensive data sets are known as “Big Data”, and Facebook makes big money from companies that compile profiles of potential customers.

Thomas Praus: “I don’t think any other company has the kind of data sets of Facebook has of its users, not even Google. Facebook is evaluating this rich resource which it’s made scalable, meaning it can be constantly updated.

So they’re able to convince companies that it pays to advertise, because they can connect directly with their target audience.”

That audience is becoming older.

In the United States, Facebook is growing fastest among the over fifties. In Western countries, young people are moving away from it.

Journalist: “Do you like Facebook?”
Person Four: “It’s alright, but it gets boring after a while.”

Thomas Praus: “Facebook is growing most among users over 40 and 50, our parents’ generation. Grandparents are discovering it now too. Of course, that represents a huge marketing opportunity.”

Facebook isn’t just for the young and hip. And at ten years old, it’s almost old school, in internet terms at least.

Shift says, “Be careful what you like.”


*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. A middle-aged computer science professor created Facebook. Is this true or false?

2. Facebook has become an integral part of many people’s lives. Is this right or wrong?

3. Is Facebook huge? What are some examples?

4. Does Facebook have a noteworthy feature? How is it useful?

5. What are social media agents and agencies? What do they do?

6. What is “Big Data”? What does “Big Data” mean? What can Facebook infer or learn about individual members? Can Big Data be valuable for companies, organizations and governments? If yes, how is personal data useful to businesses?

7. Only young, cool, hip people use Facebook. Is this correct or incorrect?
A. My friends and I all have Facebook accounts and profiles. Yes or no?

B. How much time do your friends spend on Facebook? Is Facebook their main “hobby”?

C. Does your company, business or organization utilize Facebook? How can you or your company utilize or profit from Facebook?

D. Is Facebook good, bad, in the middle, it’s both good and bad, or it depends?

E. What will happen in the future?

F. Can the government or big business use Facebook to dominate and control people, or vice versa, or it can work both ways?



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