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Facebook: The medium is no longer the message

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I was browsing through some threads on my Facebook account when a friend posted a link to a story that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia had died. This was minutes after news of his death started breaking mainstream.

It seems like I can get news like this through Facebook faster than any other way because it runs in the background most of the time when I work.

I don’t have any major news providers turned on all the time, but Facebook stays on a browser tab as I work, and all news outlets have Facebook pages on which they post stuff all day. So, when something pops up, I tend to click to it for a second or two and then go back to work.

A few years ago, I would have turned on the TV to get the news details. Now, I just click on the links.
Mark Zuckerberg perhaps had no clue what medium he created when he pushed that button on Feb. 4, 2004, and put Facebook on the Internet for the very first time at Howard University.

It was at only available at universities, but in September 2006, Facebook opened to anyone over age 13, and the site became a powerhouse. It subsequently made Zuckerberg a billionaire and changed forever how a lot of us of us receive information.

When I read newspapers online, I now find myself wanting to interact with the articles, to leave a comment about the stories, like I can on Facebook. Often, the papers post the same story on their Facebook sites, which allow the ability to leave comments.

So, I comment here and there, not that it makes a big difference. There are usually hundreds or thousands of comments. I spend more time reading the comments than the news story. They are more colorful.

That’s what’s missing from newspapers – a way to interact with stories right on the page. I have to go to the Rockets Facebook page or twitter site to tell James Harden to stop taking the easy threes because he is missing them.

I’m sure he already knows that, but I still want to tell him. Then I get stuck discussing the subject with people I’ll never meet.

I don’t want to write a Letter to the Editor. That takes too long. I just want to leave a sentence or two. It’s fast and makes me feel better.

Social media was jettisoned by Facebook when Zuckerberg pushed that “Send” button. Others have come along and tried to take a bigger bite of the social media pie, but Facebook has stayed ahead of the game, even creating a “Messenger” that now dominates that segment of the cyber industry.

The guy had guts. He wrote a program that he kept and would not allow to be taken from him. And, he networked to get enough financing to grow it into an enormous business, with equally enormous profits.

He was a geek who could have graduated and make maybe $100K annually writing this stuff for others. Instead, he fought off the raiders, maybe even unfairly tricked them in some cases, and kept it all.

But there is no way he could have known back in 2003, when he first started writing the code for Facebook, that this is what would happen and how it would change the way the whole world receives information.

Some would argue that when the mainstream media controls the flow of information, the medium becomes part of the message or is the message.

Facebook has taken the medium out of the message. The message is now the message for the whole world, except for those not on Facebook, including one of my family members, who thinks that social media is a conspiracy. He will not go near it no matter how much the rest of us nag. So, we have to use old-fashioned methods, like email, to get him updated on some family events and photos.

It’s a real hassle. Wait, I’m getting a message from Europe, and my buddy in Florida posted something political that is interesting. Love the morning posts from Mexico. A buddy had a great weekend. Nice pictures. Have to push “like” on those.

We’re living in great times.

A funny joke just came through from the friend west of the Brazos. I don’t know where she gets them, but they are funny each morning. Great cartoon from the New Yorker. Have to share that one.
Better than great. We’re living in the greatest times of human history.

And just watch. In 20 years or maybe even sooner, all this will be considered – obsolete. Go figure.