“Whosoever hath, to him shall be given”, said Matthew (13:12) – a text for our times, and if it were a Facebook status, I would like it to death.
Facebook’s IPO at the end of last week valued the company at $104 billion. It netted $16 billion, the biggest haul from an initial offering after General Motors and Visa. It added some more heft to founder Mark Zuckerberg’s bank balance, now weighing in at about $17 billion. Others who were in at the creation were propelled deep into multimillionaire land.
But us? Those of us, nearly a billion of us, who spend (if we’re American) some 20 percent of our online time on Facebook are more likely to get poorer than richer from the Facebook experience. “Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that which he hath,” continued Matthew, illogically, but correctly.
Facebook has proved, at least enough for a market looking desperately for star stocks that it’s an alchemy company. Even if the market turned a little tepid after the launch, the company has shown that it can turn socializing into gold. Its business – a business as light as the air, as insubstantial as a little gossip – is the monetizing of relationships. And this, as the company and many, many of its users will claim, is win-win. Look how much richer Facebook is making social life; look at the friendships you form, and how quickly; look what you give them – in news, gossip, pictures, thoughts, and look what it gives you: the ability to do all that, for free.
Yet here’s how Facebook can make us poor.
I have a friend – the real kind – who is an aspiring actor. In a recent conversation, he mentioned his fear that his Facebook activity might prove embarrassing if he becomes well-known.