The week of May 3, 2015

Welcome to Planet Facebook

By Jesse Hicks

What do we talk about when we talk about Facebook?

The billion-strong behemoth has become a brand with which to conjure, its sheer size and reach making it the focal point for all our hopes and fears about social media. Is Facebook making us happier? More lonely? Depressed? Is it helping us find lost loves or be less faithful to current ones? Does its vast playground of networked distractions make us less likely to spend time alone? Is it making us into performers incapable of introspection? We might all feel one way or another about these questions, but as Leslie Anne Jones explores, science is still trying to figure out just what Facebook is doing to how we think and feel.

If the company has its way, there will be a lot more of us asking that question, and in many more languages. Facebook continues to grow—after all, its power lies in its network—but some places are still outside its reach. Aaron Sankin details how Mark Zuckerberg has long eyed China and its vast Internet-savvy population, despite the the Chinese government’s Facebook ban, in place since 2009. How the company might adapt itself to comply with Chinese censorship requirements remains an open question, as does its future within the country. Meanwhile, though, Facebook’s project offers a path into other large markets in India and Indonesia, as Nithin Coca describes, while helping make the word “Internet” indistinguishable from “Facebook.”

And what about those of us already connected to Facebook’s carefully ordered version of the Internet? It’s easy to forget just how much information we’ve given up in exchange for a convenient place to chat, share pictures, and post opinions. Mike Wehner breaks down just how much Facebook knows about him—and likely about you, too. And Selena Larson examines why Facebook still doesn’t want you to see nude female breasts. The short answer, as one colleague put it, may be that it’s Facebook’s world—and we’re all just living in it.

Photo via Michael Coghlan/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)