Mark Zuckerberg’s Influence on Journalism, Media and Communication

Camryn Giles, 2016

Social Media has significantly revolutionised the way in which we communicate; allowing us to extend our communication beyond previous limitations; as well as connect with others on a global scale. At the forefront of this movement, is Mark Zuckerberg’s ‘Facebook’, with currently more than one billion users in total and being used in more than 70 languages (Facebook, 2014). The entrepreneur and philanthropist, Mark Zuckerberg, has not only used Facebook as his instrument to further the way in which we connect with others, but also pledged to utilise 99% of his profits from Facebook to fund his philanthropic causes. This essay will focus on how trends of globalisation and media convergence have greatly contributed to Mark Zuckerberg’s success, as well as analysing how he has utilised Facebook to expand the public sphere and redefine the fourth estate. It can be seen that his contribution to these four areas, in conjunction with his achievements due to Facebook, highlight Zuckerberg’s success in his mission to ‘give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” (Zuckerberg, 2015).

Mark Zuckerberg, was born to Edward and Karen Zuckerberg in White Plains, New York on the 14th of May 1984 (A&E Television Networks, 2015). Zuckerberg’s interest in communication software and computer programming began developing at a young age, and at the age of 12, he had already created “Zucknet”, his first communicative computer program using Atari BASIC, which was utilised in both his own home as well as his father’s dental office (A&E Television Networks, 2015) . It was during this time that Zuckerberg had been described as a ‘prodigy, who was hard to keep ahead of’ by his tutor ; software developer, David Newman (Western, 2014). Whilst undertaking his secondary schooling at New Hampshire’s Phillips Exeter Academy, Zuckerberg created a music software program called “Synapse”, which first brought Zuckerberg’s talent to light and caught the attention of two of the largest programming companies at the time, Microsoft and AOL (Dreier, 2010).

Following his graduation, Zuckerberg began studying computer science and psychology at Ivy League Institution Harvard, where he created two communicative programs; CourseMatch and FaceMatch (A&E Television Networks, 2015). Following this, Zuckerberg began the creation of his most famous social network “The Facebook”. Zuckerberg’s original vision for ‘Facebook’ was to create a social network that allowed the students to connect with one another. Zuckerberg, launched “ The Facebook” on the 4th of February 2004, and over 1200 Harvard students had signed up to the social network within under 24 hours of it’s launch (Phillips, 2007). By the end of 2004, Facebook had achieved a total of 1 million users, and Zuckerberg dropped out of college, moving to California to devote himself to it full time.Come 2016, he is currently worth $48.8 Billion, and ranked number #1 on Forbes’ America’s Richest Entrepreneurs under 40, and number 6 on Forbes’ Billionaires list for 2016 (Forbes, 2016).

So much of Facebook’s success can be attributed to the influence of media convergence, and how Facebook has created a whole new outlet of communication to a mass audience through blurring the boundaries. Media convergence is defined by britannia as Encyclopaedia Britannica as “a phenomenon involving the interconnection of information and communications technologies, computer networks, and media content.” (Flew, 2016). With over a billion users worldwide, Facebook has transformed the way we receive our news updates, entertainment, and media with corporations migrating to the social network, where mass audiences can be reached, regardless of their location, at the touch of a button. People and businesses all over the globe now have a new outlet to reach and extend their audiences, with seemingly minimal effort. According to Michael Scissons, president-CEO of Syncapse, “Social media is now the world’s largest mass media. One billion consumers are now reachable through social media channels” (Scissons, 2012). Zuckerberg has created a digital platform with a incredibly vast amount of both audiences and content creators, and has transformed the way in which we share information.

The influence of Globalisation is another key component in Zuckerberg’s success, with Facebook currently available in over 70 languages and continuously expanding it’s reach worldwide. Globalisation is defined by the Financial Times as “a process by which national and regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, immigration and transportation.”(Financial Times, 2016). In an interview with BBC news, Zuckerberg described one of Facebook’s key aims as “to make it easier for the world to share information” (Zuckerberg, Miller, 2014). With Facebook having become a truely global network, its users are able to connect and share with people, businesses, entertainment and news all over the globe. However, Zuckerberg, despite his current achievements, believes that there is still so much more to be done it terms of globalisation, and he states that “ for the majority of people in this world, the internet can be a lifeline’ and aims to extend the internet to those who currently don’t have access, in order to improve their quality of life through education and connection, claiming “only then can we collectively start to give everyone an equal opportunity” (Zuckerberg, 2015) . Through giving the world the tools to share information on a global scale, Zuckerberg has succeeded in creating a virtual space that brings the world to one place.

“The faces of power are changing and the fourth estate is changing too.” (Bradshaw, 2011) . Facebook has, in some respects, redefined ‘ the fourth estate’, through blurring the lines between the authors and the audience. Allan Stuart, a Professor of Journalism at Bournemouth university ,UK states that “The idea of the Fourth Estate signifies that, whatever the formal constitution, genuine political power resides in the informal role of the press, which in turn derives from the relationship between the press and it’s readers” (Stuart, A. 2009) . Dating back into the eighteenth century, the english concept of the Fourth Estate, “rests on the idea that the media’s function is to act as a guardian of the public interest and as a watchdog on the activities of government”. It contrasts with the three other estates; the Lords Spiritual, Lords Temporal, and the House of Commons, which now is equated to the modern day church, government and the public (Farnsworth, 1995) . Through establishing a platform where users can create and share information on a global scale, much of which comments on current political topics and news, Zuckerberg has redefined who can contribute to the Fourth eEstate. Not only has he given the public the power to spread information, but to also initiate political change within their own societies, as noted by professor Fulya who states “In the last several years, we have witnessed the power of the Internet help citizens change the regimes that govern them” (Fulya, 2012, pp.491).

In addition, Zuckerberg has also successfully made a significant contribution to the concept of the ‘Public Sphere’, through effectively creating a platform accessible to billions worldwide, resulting most widespread public sphere in existence. The ‘Public Sphere’ dates back to Ancient Greece, and was a space allocated specifically for philosophers to come together with the purpose of debating political and philosophical ideas (Neal, 2012) Jurgen Habermas, a German philosopher, defines the Public Sphere as “realm of our social life in something approaching public opinion can be formed. (Where) access is guaranteed to all citizens,” (Habermas,1989, p102) and describes that it is “made up of private people gathered together as a public and articulating the needs of society with the state” (Habermas, 1991, pp. 176). With 1.038 Billion active daily users and 4.75 billion pieces (Smith, 2016) of content are shared daily, Facebook has become the largest scale public sphere in existence. Zuckerberg has given a voice to the public through effectively created a space where the world can connect, and come together to debate and discuss ideas.

In my opinion, success is not a final result , but a journey; one which is continued through the creation and reaching of goals. Zuckerberg has done just that, having always stated that his goal was to “ make the world a more open place” (Facebook, 2016) and to ‘ make it easier for the world to share information’ (Zuckerberg, Miller, 2014). However, in addition to his current success, Zuckerberg continues to expand his goals to not just ‘connect the world’, but to use his platform and previous success to created a better future for generations to come. In a letter to his daughter he comments on the fact that more than 4 billion people still don’t have access to the internet and that “ If our generation connect them, we can lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty”, pledging 99% of Facebook’s profits for the cause (Zuckerberg, 2015). Furthermore,through the creation of Facebook, Zuckerberg has had an astounding influence on globalisation, media convergence, the public sphere and the fourth estate, which as a result; has brought him success and has revolutionised the fields of media, journalism and mass communication.


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