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What we mean we talk about community [The Interface]

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What does Mark Zuckerberg means when he talks about "community"? The Facebook CEO has used the word i
 
November 20 · Issue #31 · View online
The Interface
What does Mark Zuckerberg means when he talks about “community”? The Facebook CEO has used the word in more than 150 public addresses, and yet an analysis by Alexis Madrigal finds Zuckerberg’s grasp of community ever-evolving, yet conspicuously thin:
This level of naïveté sounds unbelievable until you remember that the only two states of adulthood the man has known are Harvard undergraduate and CEO of a company with unending funding and growth. His childhood was financially comfortable and individualistic in the way wealthy childhoods usually are. Where was he supposed to acquire an understanding of the ways that most places—middle-class, working-class, and poor—hold themselves together?
At a time when it feels like we’re holding ourselves together worse than we used to, Zuckerberg’s concept of community promises to be enormously consequential. And yet when Zuckerberg discusses the idea publicly, there is very little daylight between the concept of “community” and the concept of very engaged Facebook users.
We now know that sometime in late 2016, Mark Zuckerberg directed some new questions at his employees. The company had noticed that there was a special subset of Facebook users, about 100 million of them. These were people who had joined “meaningful communities” on the service, which he defined as groups that “quickly become the most important part of your social-network experience and an integral part of your real-world support structure.”
Though he never out-and-out said it, one imagines that once someone has integrated a Facebook community into their “real-world support structure,” they are far more likely to open the app and far less likely to ever leave. Again, he never said it, but it’s not hard to imagine that these people share more personally and more emotionally. They are probably recognizable in Facebook’s metrics.
Of course, it’s the CEO’s job to find where his company’s business objectives and its greater purpose are in alignment. And yet it’s unclear that the connections forged in Facebook’s super-meaningful-communities are much different in kind or degree than their equivalents on predecessor platforms, such as chat rooms or web forums. On the other hand, Facebook’s massive scale does seem to have enabled tribalism and polarization, in ways that may have destabilized our politics. 
And that’s why all this talk of community-building can ring hollow. It’s clear how Facebook has benefited from the aggregation of 2 billion eyeballs, and much less clear how the world has. It seems entirely possible tech companies are building “community” at the expense of democracy, and until they can reconcile those two ideas they can expect to be met with skepticism. 

Democracy
Bipartisan Harvard panel recommends hacking safeguards for elections
We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself
Blood babies of the Hollywood elite
Elsewhere
Another Female Executive Leaves Snap
Where Are All the Nannies on Instagram?
Launches
Facebook announces bot makeover contest for Messenger
Takes
Social Media Is a Denial-of-Service Attack on Your Mind
And finally
KFC designs a $10,000 tent for people want to hide from the internet
Talk to me
Questions? Comments? Conspiracy theories about Keanu Reeves? casey@theverge.com 
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