Apr 242012
Authors: Matt Miller

Every time I log onto Facebook (which is regrettably quite often), I feel a little bit guilty for aiding in the social media giant’s inevitable takeover.

On Monday, Facebook released new statistics reflecting its growth and revenue over the last fiscal quarter, and the report provided some quite shocking numbers. When I say shocking, I mean they were rather unnerving statistics.

I read as much as I could of this nearly 200-page document and thought I would put some of the numbers into perspective.

The report said that Facebook now has 901 million monthly active users. This is almost three times the population of the United States and about 2 million more than all of Europe. Facebook would be the third largest country and the third largest continent –– probably filled with many non-productive and self-centered people.

One year ago, Facebook had 680 million users. So in one year, the population of Facebook grew by 221 million. The United Nations estimates that between the years 2000 and 2005 the world population increased by 383,047,000. In one year, Facebook grew faster than the world population did in five, and estimates expect that before the end of the year, the Facebook population will surpass one billion.

Every day, about 3.2 billion likes and comments are posted. That’s more than half of the world’s population taking the time to like someone’s relationship status or making a comment about his or her new haircut, or puppy or something.

Facebook reported that 300 million photos are uploaded onto the site every day. This number alone is more than the number of photos that even existed in the world before the 1900s. Facebook is also the largest photo library in history and is more than 10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress. This social media site is where all of the visual memories of most of humanity are stored. With so much stake in the world’s photography, it makes sense that Facebook would pay a total of more than $1 billion for Instagram.

Now these numbers are slightly terrifying. I mean, what if Facebook decided to just delete most of the photos ever taken, or somehow brainwash a good chunk of the world’s population to overthrow their governments? What would the world do if Facebook suddenly disappeared and more than half of us couldn’t like or post trivial things once a day?

What’s interesting is that with all of Facebook’s power, not a shocking amount translates into actual dollar revenue. The people at TechCrunch did the math and found out just how much Facebook makes off of each of us, and what’s surprising is that it’s only between $4.69 and $4.81 a year.

I’m sure most of us college students give more than this to Coors or Budweiser or McDonald’s in a week.

TechCrunch also pointed out that Facebook had a net income of $205 million in Quarter 1 of 2012. Comparatively, McDonald’s had a net income of $1.27 billion.

So Facebook has a good chunk of the world’s population in its grips, but its authority is not in dollar signs, it’s in our sudden interest in social networking and Facebook’s position as the platform that a majority of the population has chosen.

One section of the document that Facebook released on Monday was particularly interesting to me. It was a section titled, “Risk Factors.”

The first risk factor on the list said, “If we fail to retain existing users or add new users, or if our users decrease their level of engagement with Facebook, our revenue, financial results and business may be significantly harmed.”

Facebook realizes that we as users of social media hold all of the power. Should our interest in Facebook start to wane or if we decide we like another social media site (like say Twitter), Facebook will be reduced to nothing.

What’s interesting is how easily this could happen. Remember Myspace? Years ago, everyone used Myspace, until Facebook came along with a much more exclusive and cleaner social media platform, and in an instant we users of social media collectively ruined Myspace and made Facebook the king of the web.

Yes Facebook has 901 million monthly active users, and yes these users are active and the site houses like every picture in the world, but it’s only because of us. The rather unexpected whims of Internet users, of us, are the only value that Facebook has.

All of the bite that the mighty Facebook has lies with us. Should we all decide to delete our Facebooks with the click (well a few clicks) of a button, Mark Zuckerberg’s multinational social media empire will fall. And at least that’s a sobering thought in the face of Facebook domination.

News Editor Matt Miller is a senior journalism major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. He can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter

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