28 Feb Globally Connected – Is Facebook Making the World a Better Place?
Mark Zuckerberg quotes the renowned saying that encapsulates innovation and progress globally, “We always overestimate what we can do in two years, and we underestimate what we can do in ten years.” It prompts the question ‘What does ‘in ten years’ look like for cultural understanding and awareness?
In Zuckerberg’s letter to his Facebook community titled, ‘Building Global Community’, it is comforting to see a global figure making heartfelt steps to ensure that the world’s largest ‘family’ feels protected and is offered the opportunity to interact and communicate without prejudice or biased opinion.
What we cannot ignore is that our global community is changing, and as we are increasingly exposed to one large ‘majority’ our generational and cultural divisions are becoming more obvious which can essentially mean our sense of ‘community’ as we know it is broken down.
The question is….how do we preserve culture and community while encouraging globalization and uniting groups around the world? This is where opportunity lies for us all.
Are we moving to minority sub-sets within our ‘larger community’? Or does a community like Facebook with almost two billion users create their own ‘language and culture’. What does this mean for those who don’t feel as though they ‘belong’ or cannot assimilate due to their geography, generational groups or beliefs?
Most importantly, where does this take us, and what does this look like for future generations?
Here we unpack Zuckerberg’s plans for Facebook and expose a deeper understanding of what innovation can not ignore; the need to ensure a far deeper appreciation for culture, enhanced and respectful understanding of language and explore how the two are integral to successful global communication on a higher level – offline and online.
The question is asked in Zuckerberg’s letter, ‘whether we can make a global community that works for everyone, and whether the path ahead is to connect more or reverse course’. The answer lies somewhere in between, with a carefully networked integration of tradition and understanding, while at the same time ensuring that communication between all cultures and minority groups is paramount in the transition to the new global vision.
1) Supportive Communities
Facebook’s goal number one is ‘to strengthen existing communities by helping us come together online as well as offline, as well as enabling us to form completely new communities, transcending physical location. When we do this, beyond connecting online, we reinforce our physical communities by bringing us together in person to support each other’.
Social infrastructure and the formation of ‘meaningful groups’ are not new concepts and have been observed ‘offline’ for generations. Cultural groups who share common beliefs and language need to be preserved and ‘heard’ across all mediums. The groups are essential to our global framework and are evolving with new platforms to stay aligned. Facebook’s plans for AI (Artificial Intelligence) need to ensure that this is recognized and they are strengthened, and therefore not face being ‘endangered’, as is the case with many cultural norms and beliefs.
2) Safe Community
‘The path forward is to recognize that a global community needs social infrastructure to keep us safe from threats around the world, and that our community is uniquely positioned to prevent disasters, help during crises, and rebuild afterwards. Keeping the global community safe is an important part of our mission — and an important part of how we’ll measure our progress going forward’.
A sense of ‘safe community’ is far greater that any cultural or language based communication challenges. It should be everyone’s mission, no matter how insignificant their ‘meaningful group’ is on a global scale. Communication does not discriminate and is essential to a safe community for all.
There are now many online ‘meaningful groups’ but offline a ‘meaningful group’ can simply be our local community. Our communities are being intertwined with globalization, which is truly inspiring, but if you look anywhere in the world we are still drawn to our ‘cultural family’.
Zuckerberg quotes, “As one pastor told me: People feel unsettled. A lot of what was settling in the past doesn’t exist anymore.” This poses the question…was it common language, culture and the local community support network that was settling?
Cultural groups within our globalized community of immigrants, families, students, professionals, expatriates and refugees are all part of these ‘meaningful groups’. It is wonderful that Facebook recognizes the importance to humanities fragile framework for the importance of acceptance and security. However, what is integral here is cultural acceptance and understanding, and the preservation of language on a much larger scale.
3) Informed Community
Encouraging a ‘culturally intelligent’ flow of communication will ensure that our communities are richer; feel supported and can unite for global integration. With this ideology, communication will be enhanced and groups will feel empowered to have a voice, both online and offline.
‘Research suggests the best solutions for improving discourse may come from getting to know each other as whole people instead of just opinions — something Facebook may be uniquely suited to do.’
Facebook’s work around ‘fake news’ and ‘filter bubbles’ is encouraging and will help to dispel prejudices, however global connectivity still continues to plague communication and opportunities for globalization. However Zuckerberg suggests ‘if we connect with people about what we have in common — sports teams, TV shows, interests — it is easier to have dialogue about what we disagree on. When we do this well, we give billions of people the ability to share new perspectives while mitigating the unwanted effects that come with any new medium’.
This is where cultural understanding and preservation comes to play.
4) Civically-engaged Community
Is civic-engagement marred by inefficiency in communication and lack of cultural understanding? Is the voice of government and influential figures lost, and members of the community retreat due to lack of engagement? With the increase in globalization and mobility we find that our local communities are increasingly multicultural, and therefore ‘ethnic communities’ retreat, and as a result the social framework becomes broken down. With this in mind, is encouraging cultural awareness and communication the tool to repair this?
It is essential to integrate ethnic communities within our social infrastructure to be civically-engaged and feel a sense of inclusion.
‘In India, Prime Minister Modi has asked his ministers to share their meetings and information on Facebook so they can hear direct feedback from citizens. In Kenya, whole villages are in WhatsApp groups together, including their representatives. In recent campaigns around the world — from India and Indonesia across Europe to the United States — we’ve seen the candidate with the largest and most engaged following on Facebook usually wins. Just as TV became the primary medium for civic communication in the 1960s, social media is becoming this in the 21st century’.
How do we reach the local socially disengaged audience? Can language barriers mean that some groups are forming minorities? Perhaps if we move into a more globally connected future this will transcend culture and align international communities. We could see language and culture preserved in this way.
5) Inclusive Community
Perhaps the most important focus of Facebook’s future framework is their work on ‘Inclusive Community’ and how they plan to support reflecting ‘collective values and common humanity from local to global levels, spanning cultures, nations and regions in the world with few examples of global communities?’
Zuckerberg recognizes that ‘cultural norms are shifting, cultures are different around the world, and people are sensitive to different things. Our community spans many countries and cultures, and the norms are different in each region. With a community of almost two billion people, it is less feasible to have a single set of standards to govern the entire community so we need to evolve towards a system of more local governance’.
We applaud Facebook for understanding this critical element as part of their framework. As the next step, it will be important to understand how we protect and preserve our cultural norms and community alliances? Facebook’s answer is to ‘combine creating a large-scale democratic process to determine standards with AI to help enforce them.’
Through the process do we lose our voice, and can culture and language transcend modern day media? Can this voice be heard across social networks? The answer is mostly yes, but is it powerful enough to withstand globalization? Facebook ensures that through their model of ‘collective decision making’ it will ensure a positive impact through worldwide communication.
Facebook has definite ideas about how ‘Community Standards should reflect the cultural norms’ by setting guidelines and instructional parameters for personal control and communication of democratic referenda. However, what if the common ‘voice’ is relative to a particular generational dynamic, or minority group, who are offline? These messages may then be disseminated in a different way to groups that may use traditional means of communication and hold differing cultural prejudices to make community based decisions. How does this impact an ‘Inclusive Community?’
“There are many of us who stand for bringing people together and connecting the world. I hope we have the focus to take the long view and build the new social infrastructure to create the world we want for generations to come.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Founder & CEO
Mark (Zuckerberg), when you are developing the AI framework, or building out the tools to recognize ‘fake news’ and ‘filter bubbles’, and protecting us from ‘sensationalism and polarization’, we ask that you please ensure that your strategy will have the power to support a macro view of local cultures on a global scale, and therefore preserve language and culture in it’s truest and most authentic form for generations to come.
To quote Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.
So Mark, we ask the question of you also…’are we building the world that we want’? We have many inspirational architects but what counts is the bricks and mortar. Language and culture have been with us from the beginning of time, they support the very foundations of ‘local’ communities across the world. These foundations have been intertwined throughout our ‘social framework’ without local prejudice or challenge, however if they are not carefully preserved through the onset of globalization and innovation, we may very well attribute to their demise.
We need to ensure that understanding languages and cultural acceptance, the foundations of humanity, are integrated into the education of our children and universally accepted through our communication and media channels on a global scale. Only then can we ensure that the ‘world we are building’ provides security and inclusion regardless of age, race, religion and most importantly, online connectivity.
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