The Day My Mother Got Facebook

It was a day like any other. I woke up, got ready for work, checked the ‘vitals’ on my iPhone; BBC News, Hotmail, Facebook. And there it was, staring right back at me in (appropriately) black and blue; ‘You have a friend request from Caroline F.’

This was no longer a day like any other. It felt like my entire existence had changed forever. My mother had gone and joined Facebook.

OK, so maybe I’m overreacting. After all, some of my colleagues, ex bosses, clients and even old school teachers are friends of mine on Facebook, so I’d learned the multi-generational/colleague/client Facebook etiquette a while back. But my own mother? So many thoughts ran through my mind. What will she think of my statuses? What will I think of her statuses? Will she disown me for parading photographs of her to hundreds of strangers? Will she tag me in embarrassing baby pictures? Will she even know how to tag?

When four Harvard students launched the site in their dorm rooms five years ago, little did they know they had started something so big. Now, with 200 million users and growing at an exponential rate, Facebook is a sign of the times, a global platform for all walks of life, which apparently now includes my mother.

There are now 50 languages by which to navigate the site, including Welsh (my own Facebook language of choice). And speaking of languages that make you sound like you’re choking on a hard candy, Facebook very recently launched a version in Swahili.

Just as the site’s users grow in demographic, so does its advertising, the advertisers behind it and the way in which they advertise. Like other social websites of today, Facebook provides a platform for highly-targeted advertising, giving excellent value for money to small businesses who need more ‘bang for their buck’.

Now, companies in Tanzania have an opportunity to reach their Swahili-speaking demographic in a very targeted manner without spending money and time in research and development trying to figure out exactly which geographic locations they frequent, or which newspapers they read.

With more than 4 billion minutes worldwide being spent on Facebook each day, advertisers are of course thrilled that social networking plays such a huge role on the global stage, and Facebook doesn’t have a monopoly, either.

With no national press coverage in the highly censored country of Iran, Twitter has lately been one of the only mediums for political comment on the local election since a country-wide crackdown on journalism. This cyber activism against the ‘big brother’ government means that Iranian members are also growing in their thousands, adding to the worldwide increase in social networking and a worldwide increase in online advertising.

So, after a week of getting used to it, I have learned to live with my mother being a member of Facebook. She’s now quite happily commenting away on people’s pages and photos, searching for long lost friends and expanding her own social network, one click at a time.

But I can’t help but think, who next? Will this social media fascination soon extend to my eighty-five year old grandmother wanting to look up the American soldiers she shared a beer with in World War II? Quite possibly.

Some Facts on Facebook
* More than 200 million active users
* More than 100 million users log on to Facebook at least once each day
* More than two-thirds of Facebook users are outside of college
* The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older

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