For more than a decade, Mark Zuckerberg has been in the public eye, first as tech's golden boy and the genius behind Facebook and more recently as some manner of cyber villain who deceived its users.
So Zuckerberg knows, perhaps better than most, that everyone needs "a space to just be ourselves and not have to worry about performing our persona," he said in a comment on his own Facebook post about his future goals on Thursday.
"I need time with family and friends where I'm not 'Mark Zuckerberg' but just me as a person," he wrote in the comment.
It's something Facebook is focusing on too: "I hope we can help deliver a version of this for everyone," he wrote.
The post is yearly tradition for Zuckerberg. From learning Mandarin to running 365 miles, each year he sets a personal goal and shares it with his millions of Facebook followers. This year Zuckerberg's post was focused on the next decade, and one goal that "is really important to get right" is developing smaller communities that "we all need in our lives," he said.
While Facebook and the internet have allowed us to connect with billions of people, it also "makes us crave intimacy," he wrote.
"When I grew up in a small town, it was easy to have a niche and sense of purpose," he said. "But with billions of people, it's harder to find your unique role.
"For the next decade, some of the most important social infrastructure will help us reconstruct all kinds of smaller communities to give us that sense of intimacy again," he said.
Facebook has been focusing on "privacy-focused communications," for some time.
In March, Zuckerberg said private messaging and "small groups" are "by far the fastest growing areas of online communication," in a Facebook post. "With all the ways people also want to interact privately, there's also an opportunity [for Facebook] to build a simpler platform that's focused on privacy first," he wrote.
In April, Facebook redesigned the app interface to make groups more accessible, and encourage people to send private messages rather than post on the main news feed. And in Oct. 2019, Facebook launched Threads from Instagram, a standalone photo and video messaging app "designed with privacy, speed and your close connections in mind."
Of course, as Zuckerberg admitted in the March post, Facebook doesn't "currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services." For example, there was the March 2018 Cambridge Analytica data breach, and in July Facebook paid a $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission in July 2019 for "deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information."
Zuckerberg predicted in Thursday's post that it will take five or more years for our "digital social environments" to truly evolve.
However, researchers are still examining the role Facebook and other social networks play in fostering our relationships and well-being. For example, a 2017 study conducted by Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University suggests that "actively" using Facebook (sending messages or comments between friends) led to improvements in well‐being compared to "passively" liking or scrolling through the feed.
But a 2018 study found that the negative effects associated with Facebook use outweigh the positive impacts of offline relationships, "which suggests a possible trade-off between offline and online relationships."
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