You've undoubtedly heard the news: Facebook's 26-year-old co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, was named TIME magazine's Person of the Year 2010. Naturally the whole Web is freaking out, but let's take a look at why the choice makes sense.
At a young 6 years old, Facebook added its 550 millionth member. That means 1 out of every 12 people -- in the world -- has an account. Among those 550 million are 75 different languages and more than 700 billion minutes per month spent on the same network. According to TIME's Lev Grossman, Facebook accounted for 1 out of 4 American page views, and is currently growing at a rate of approximately 700,000 people a day.
Maybe you're sick of numbers like these. That's understandable--numbers are boring. What isn't boring, however, is the impact that the network has had on almost every facet of our lives. Perhaps this bit isn't considered as often because we're so used to it. Facebook and the springboard it has been for dozens of applications in both the consumer and business world is becoming so deeply ingrained in the way we live and think that we don't even notice it anymore.
Younger generations will never know a world that isn't connected on this scale. They will laugh when we tell them about the days when it was normal to not be able to reach someone, and frown when we try to explain why friends knowing what you were up 24 hours a day was a little weird at first.
If being responsible for such a huge shift in culture isn't deserving of the Person of the Year title, what is?
The TIME reader poll for the magazine's Person of the Year 2010 favored Julian Assange, the face of the controversial WikiLeaks site. This isn't surprising, given that Assange has dominated the headlines for the last three months. Leaders are angry, global relationships have been shaken, and the world is heavily debating important issues like transparency, security and free speech.
These things matter, of course they do, but how many people are feeling the effects of Assange's website at this moment in time?
"The saga of the recently-captured Julian Assange and his irreverent, almost nihilistic treatment of government secrets is the stuff of a James Bond film or a Stieg Larsson novel. It could forever alter international relations, or it could ultimately become a geopolitical flash in the pan," wrote CNET's Caroline McCarthy.
The World Connected
We don't know what kind of impact WikiLeaks will ultimately have on the world, but enough of us -- one twelfth of the population, to be exact -- can vouch for how being constantly connected has changed our lives. If you don't believe me and you participate in any sort of social networking, or any application that has been directly influenced by it, try going without for a couple days. For some of you, even a couple hours will do.
Politics and war and celebrity scandal unite people everywhere for all different lengths of time, but social networking platforms like Facebook have succeeded in becoming one of the few things almost all of us have in common. We are united on a much larger and constantly growing scale, and it is permanent.