By: Kelley Wake
Every year the king of social media sets himself a set of new year’s resolutions, or what he calls personal challenges (because, you know, he has to be different), and in true Facebook style, shares them with the world.
We’ve been witness to: ‘wear a tie to work every day’ in 2009, ‘read a book every week’ in 2015 and ‘learn Mandarin’ in 2010. My favourite so far was ‘get more comfortable with public speaking’ – he really needed that one last year given all his Q&As with the heavies in Congress.
But this year, he’s stepped up his game and given us no fewer than five challenges, which are more like ‘new decade’ resolutions, by the sounds of it.
Coming in first is his quest to provide generational change. He says that when he launched his platform, he hoped it would give those without a voice the power to make a difference. He says that while it has given people a voice, it hasn’t made the generational changes in addressing important issues he had hoped for (no surprises there). Anyway, he has committed to focusing more on funding and giving a platform to younger entrepreneurs, scientists, and leaders to enable these changes.
Private social platform
His second challenge is to create a private social platform. Acknowledging that, while Facebook has created a global community, it leaves a lot to be desired in the intimacy and purpose department. With the global decline in mental health being connected to humanity’s dependence on likes and shares, Zuckerberg wants to create smaller, more meaningful communities where people can truly connect and discover their unique roles in society.
With more than 140 million entrepreneurs reaching customers through Facebook, there is no denying the opportunities Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram provide to small-to-medium enterprises in growing their customer base by using his platforms. His fourth challenge is to use technology to build payment systems so smaller companies have the commercial opportunities that were previously only available to larger businesses. Hello Libra, we see you.
The next computing platform
Elon Musk’s Neuralink doesn’t get as much airtime as his other ventures – maybe because it’s an implantable brain chip which will “merge biological intelligence with machine intelligence,” and probably freaks out the majority of the population. Zuckerberg has a slightly different approach to melding human consciousness with technology. He sees the future of digital communication through rose-tinted augmented glasses. Far less invasive, his glasses will track brain functions so that users can control actions like clicking and scrolling by merely thinking about them. “‘Facebook wants to perform brain surgery,’” Zuckerberg joked. “I don’t want to see the congressional hearings on that one.”
New forms of governance
His last challenge – I see it as more of a wish – is for governments to take a more regulative role in online privacy. He has repeatedly said that he doesn’t think “private companies should be making so many important decisions that touch on fundamental democratic values”. Fair enough. He wants governments to establish clearer laws around elections, content, privacy and data. Another suggestion he has given is community self-regulation. He wants users to be able to report problems to an independent board which will have the final say on whether certain content is allowed.
After an eventful couple of years, this seems like quite the undertaking from the social network. We’ve all heard the accusations of unfathomable atrocities the platform has faced, from privacy violations and involvements in elections to spurring literal genocides. Yes, Zuckerburg faced Congress and paid a $5 billion penalty but still made profits every quarter. Who’s to know if these are purely words on paper – like so many of our own new year’s resolutions turn out to be – or if there will be actual change. One can only hope. Right?