This sounds like a story lede so inflammatory and sensational that it wouldn’t even make it onto the local TV news. Yet, statistically, its just a fact of life that many, many people who use Facebook will die this year.
Nothing sinister is at play. Remember, as investors pile millions into the company with the big blue F, they back up the soundness of their reasoning by telling themselves that there are nearly 600 million active users of Facebook. That’s a pretty significant population – twice the size of the United States. And when you talk populations that big, you can make predictions based on public health statistics, which is what Fast Company has just done:
It’s a question of percentages. Sure, there is mortality rate of just 0.100% for people between the ages of 20 and 24, but when you start talking about massive sample sizes, that’s going to be a number that sounds shocking – 22, 640.
Then again, let’s think this through – how many people who use doorknobs will die this year? How many people who leave this mortal coil in 2011 will have consumed PEANUT BUTTER at least once in the past 12 months. IT COULD BE THOUSANDS. MILLIONS!
The real point is that Facebook is reaching a scale at which it become a public utility. Skype – which has around 27 million users at any one moment, users that pay nothing – released a profuse apology for letting their largely free service go down for a few hours. Now, as someone who remembers a time when rural areas like where I grew up only got one TV station in dubious quality, I find it fascinating that CEOs now apologize when they cease giving away free intra-planetary telecommunications for 24 hours. The world sure has changed. Social media is not consider a frivolous entertainment, it is more like water, sewer and electricity – people expect it to just be there.
Facebook is getting more publicity that the average religious deity because they are hip and relevant. Then again, think of the hipness and brand awareness of your typical utility company. Does anyone write feverish, excited prose about the new business model of the water company in your city? Apple CEO Steve Jobs has just taken another medical leave of absence, and markets are holding their breath. When was the last time that happened for the CEO of an electricity distribution company? Who can name a SINGLE natural gas provider?
Utilities tend not to stay on the front page forever.