In 2006, TIME magazine announced that it was giving the coveted title of its “Person of the Year” to someone we all were very familiar with: You. In doing so, they were acknowledging that in 2006, the role social media played in shaping the news and affecting the way the world worked was quite legitimate. I suppose back then it was no big surprise as their choice was reasoned to be “because it literally reflects the idea that you, not us, are transforming the information age.”
Since then, there have been several other “Persons of the Year” by TIME magazine, but when it comes to affecting the information age, no one has seemed to be a bigger force than the 2010 “Person of the Year”, Facebook’s founder & CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. But let’s not forget that typically this honor is not bestowed without some form of controversy and Zuckerberg’s choice is competing with some who think that the Wikileak’s founder, Julian Assange, should be given this title as well.
I tend to disagree, but also agree.
No, I’m not flip-flopping here, but if we look at the year as a whole, then we can see that Zuckerberg has made a definite impact on the way that we now live our lives through social media. On the other hand, the significance of the Wikileak’s story with Assange cannot be discounted because his “one-time” (and I use that phrase loosely) impact has really ruptured the fabric of international diplomacy and created either a backlash or parade of transparency in the way we conduct ourselves with allies and enemies. Nevertheless, Zuckerberg’s product has helped motivate and encourage us to become more open and share our information with the world.
Photo Credit: paidcontent.org
Don’t just look at the issues about privacy or lack of data portability, but with new innovations that happened in 2010 like new messaging platform, Facebook Places, updated profiles and even The Social Network just receiving Best Picture at the Golden Globes, Zuckerberg has really shaped our communication spectrum. For a lot of people, the technology that erupted in 2010 here in the Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay Area, it’s been pretty piecemeal of sorts. Sure, we have FourSquare, Twitter, etc., but what Zuckerberg decided to do was create everything within the specific Facebook ecosystem. Now we’re getting email messages as chats in Facebook, being able to “check-in” to places using Facebook Places, control our status and update our profiles through improved mobile applications and not to mention that the service is rolling in over 500 million users monthly. That’s not a bad way to help shape the way the world does business…or even communicates with one another.
Zuckerberg’s role in the company has been an important one and has definitely shaped the conversation over the past year. On the other hand, discounting Assange’s role would be rather foolish because for nearly half of the past year, Assange’s Wikileaks has done nothing but expose the United States’ secrets and diplomatic cables for the rest of the world – whether or not that’s treasonous or even contemptible is another discussion. I agree that Assange’s efforts have placed him in serious contention for the prestigious “Person of the Year” title, but overall, Zuckerberg’s platform has probably done more for the information age that (dare I say) has led to the formation of Wikileaks and created the environment that allowed Wikileaks to prosper.
But TIME has made no allusions to the fact that their “Person of the Year” selection is not necessarily someone that has benefited the world – rather it’s someone who has been a big newsmaker in the past 365 days. And from the new additions to the Facebook platform, Zuckerberg has been in the news for many other things as well, including the stories about the formation of the company, the news about being sued by the Winklevoss twins, the infamous IMs about his cavalier attitude and supposed “contempt” for the users, concerns over lack of privacy and other controversial decisions and issues that have plagued the platforms users. These items have affected nearly all of the 500 million monthly users in some way, shape or form and will continue to do so.
To that end, I suspect that while Assange’s efforts have the potential to cripple diplomatic relations for entire governments and countries, if it weren’t for the significant advances and achievements (term used loosely), then Wikileaks might not have the user base that it has now. Nevertheless, do not discount these two juggernauts of the information age – one tries to roll life into a virtual platform while the other chooses to exploit and reveal secrets to a wider audience through the Internet.
Either way, the world has seen the digital revolution truly come true and TIME was right five years ago when it declared the “Person of the Year” was us.