Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has denied suggestions that the social media platform has destroyed communication, adding that the world “needs” social media.
Yesterday, Zuckerberg hosted an in-person townhall Q&A in Rome, Italy, where he answered questions from students at Luiss University.
Lack of interaction?
When asked if he thought Facebook was ruining the way in which people interact with each other, he said that if he thought that was the case he would simply change his product. He added: “If you were working on something and you thought you’d broken something really important in the world wouldn’t you just change what you were doing? I would hope so.”
He explained that he does not believe people are primarily using Facebook to replace face-to-face interaction. Instead, he feels it is being used to communicate with people you would not otherwise have the opportunity to connect with.
He said: “When I’m hanging out with my wife I don’t go to the other room and talk to her on Facebook. That would not be good. Nothing replaces face-to-face interaction.” He does, however, think that in the future virtual reality will help people to be ‘closer’ to one another when they are not physically together.
Zuckerberg said: “My sister lives on the other side of the country from me and I want to know what’s going on with her kids. I can see her updates on Facebook and she can send me messages on Facebook messenger and WhatsApp throughout the day keeping me posted. If she didn’t have those tools I’d have to wait until she travelled out to California or I travelled out to New York, or I’d have to get on the phone with her which, unfortunately, doesn’t happen as regularly as I’d like.
“I think we can all relate to this. There are probably people in your life – maybe you’re not close enough to go and visit them or to call them. But you like seeing what they’re up to from time to time. That’s what Facebook does. I definitely don’t think we’re ruining anything. I think we’re augmenting communication. We previously had the tools to keep in touch with the people around us and now we have the technology to keep in touch with the people we love and care about no matter where they are.
Zuckerberg added that he is proud of how Facebook is helping to bring people together and change the way in which people inform themselves. Social media, he said, is the most diverse form of media that has ever existed.
“Every person gets to program their own Facebook experience,” he explained. “You get to choose who your friends are, what businesses you want to follow.
“You now have the chance to connect with people all over the world. The average person in Europe who uses Facebook has more than 50 friends from outside their country. Now you’re not just getting your news from around you but you’re connected to, and getting updates from, people all around the world. A lot of your friends will come from very different backgrounds, with very different political views and philosophies.”
This, he feels, is very different from getting all of your news from a newspaper or a TV station where you “get the news from one place”.
He concludes: “We’re really proud of our role in this as a technology company. I think the world needs this. It needs media companies too. We take our role in this very seriously.”