SN&R’s 2012 College Essay Contest honorable mention
I was flipping through Time Magazine last week, and an article relating to Facebook caught my eye. It was by senior writer Joe Klein, who was covering the F8 convention and your latest new profile idea, the Timeline. Mostly, Klein talked about society’s obsession with Facebook and the rest of the habitual claptrap we hear about social networking nowadays. But his reflections on your new Facebook feature got me thinking (again) about the power of technology, and the new ways it might have a meaningful impact on our world.
You know how much I respect Facebook’s continual growth as a globally powerful personal and political communications tool. But I can’t help but feel that your future evolution should include a venture that takes you in a new direction. Sure, a personal Timeline is a fresh and cool way to let someone know about your life. But you have the potential to do so much more.
I know you already see me as a crazy idealist. But pause for a second and think about it. You have access to millions of teenagers and young adults, people who go to your site not only for conversation, but to find out what’s happening in the world. They learned of the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Steve Jobs on Facebook. They no longer have to call someone to ask how their day was because, chances are, their friends will post a status update about it. They can even find out who their cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s mother is, in fewer than five clicks.
More American teenagers discuss the changes made to the Facebook layout than our country’s economic problems or the crisis engulfing Greece.
These same teenagers of today are the people who will be making a difference in the next 20 years. They will be leading our governments and companies, and defining what our world will accomplish and look like tomorrow.
So here is my simple proposal: Why don’t you take the strength of Facebook and encourage people to “click for a cause”? Why not harness the power of your vast number of members for a greater public good, along with encouraging people to trade personal information about themselves?
While your decision to donate $100 million to the Newark schools and launch Startup: Education is an extremely generous one, let’s take it a step further. Because of Facebook’s rapidly expanding network, you have access to millions of people who could all make a difference, just by logging on. You can stay true to our business goals, but give it a charitable twist.
Why not designate one day a year when a major company promises to donate 1 cent for every 10th person who logs on that day? Think of the mutual benefits. The company would be featured on your website and automatically be seen as one that gives back to the community.
Having a Gatorade-sponsored log-in day, for example, would not only provide that beverage company with unbeatable public exposure, but would also bring in money for a specific charity. People would log on to Facebook not only to interact, but also to make a broader impact on the world. You could call it “Givebook” or “Helpbook” or something along those lines.
TOMS shoes founder Blake Mycoskie has had tremendous success blending charity with business. Most consumers love the idea of giving through receiving, especially when it’s easy. People buy TOMS because it makes them feel good about buying something. It takes the selfish act of shopping and makes it selfless. In your case, something like “Givebook” could counteract the resentment that some people feel about “wasting” time on Facebook. If their engagement were a “win-win”—fun for them and philanthropic at the same time—that resentment would fade, causing your membership to grow.
Other websites, like www.freerice.com, have connected with major world-charity programs in order to give food and supplies to countries in need. Freerice donates 10 grains of rice for every question answered correctly—a simple idea with a powerful impact.
You are a businessman, Mark, one whose success will leave a large and lasting mark on history. Why not add to your legacy by expanding Facebook’s relevance to the world?