When Facebook filed to go public in early 2012, Mark Zuckerberg noted that the social network wasn’t originally designed to be a company. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” Zuckerberg wrote in Facebook’s S-1 filing, presenting the business as an engine supporting this goal.
Fast forward 6 years and now you can now understand why Mark Zuckerberg might be getting a God complex. Facebook now has 2 billion monthly users. In crude terms, this makes it bigger than every religion bar Christianity. It’s perhaps understandable then that Zuckerberg appears to see his creation as a possible replacement for the church.
For one, churches are messy. They are not organised by any algorithm or tailored to the individual end user. Far from it: a church service is not made for any one person: the same liturgies have been intoned and the same songs sung by millions of people all over the world, in many cases over the course of the centuries. We can’t just flick past the bits we don’t like: we are confronted with discomfiting Bible passages, impenetrable mysteries, harrowing truths. Unlike Facebook, a church tells us that we are not at the centre of the world.
Mr Zuckerberg has recently been pushing the idea of communities as Facebook’s new mission and last week said it would be the company’s focus from now on.
Facebook’s new mission, Zuckerberg said in an interview at the company’s Menlo Park, California headquarters last week, doesn’t mean that the company is shifting away from connecting friends and family, but rather, that it’s broadening its focus to enabling people to connect with meaningful communities, too.
Why do these communities matter, Zuckerberg’s case goes? They help users find common ground, which helps people engage with new perspectives and become aware of different issues.
“For 10 years, we focused on doing everything around connecting people with their friends and family,” Zuckerberg said. “Now I think that there is a whole lot of similar work to be done around communities: Meeting new people, getting exposed to new perspectives, making it so that the communities that you join online can translate to the physical world, too.”