Image: Unsplash, Filip Gielda

The part of the world that is highly appreciative of Facebook

Where I live almost 100% are connected to the internet and there are more active smartphones than there are people.

I’m from Greenland with a population of just 56,000 people. There are 16 cities and approx. 60 settlements. Each city and settlement is isolated from each other with no connecting roads and can only be accessed by boat or air.

“Everyone knows each other” is a common presentation for tourists and it is roughly true. If you do not know a person, you wouldn’t need to network much before you find common friends with a person.

The old isolated infrastructure

I was a kid and a teenager before social media became a thing. We only used to see friends and family from other cities once a year or every second year and actually knew very little or nothing about people from the other cities and settlements, even though we were very few. Many kids played in sports teams, some in multiple sports at once, because the annual national championships allowed you to travel to other cities and meet kids from remote cities.

You get the idea. Facebook grew rapidly in Greenland and especially in 2009 where we voted for self-governance. We came to learn that information-travel was longer depended on middle-stops (media with selective editors/individuals) but that you could start broadcasting your messages directly to the audience. It was a new experience for people to be connected so closely with many at the same time.

The new overlaying infrastructure we all invested in

Today, the Facebook app is Greenlands most important supporting foundation to every people. Why and how? Greenland is the worlds largest island with very few cities and people. The cities are a few hundreds kilometres away from each other, some more than a thousand. The infrastructure is a heavy investment and heavy in maintenance costs only a few finance. Less than a decade ago it was normal for me to pay almost $4,000 a month for having me and my 7 employees being connected and an additional $500+ a month at home. Every single one complained, but everyone was connected as it was so important for every of us. Facebook became to be the online reflection of our interests and connections, and we do not complain. Today we pay a fixed price of approx. $180 a month per household + $100 for cellular and the Facebook experience alone justifies a major part of what we pay.

It is fascinating to reflect on how Facebook have simplified so many complex matters for Greenland. If you remove Facebook from Greenland, you’d remove the overlaying infrastructure of the nation. For every new feature introduced in Greenland by Facebook, is a progression for the people of Greenland. Marketplace (half of the population is active in groups), Events (many checks it daily), FB Live (a strong line of local personalities), Messenger and Calls (cheaper and more fun than traditional calls).

Be a bit more self-critical when comparing

When I reflect on the controversies emerging in the news regarding how Facebook is influencing the news and politics I do think it is important to reflect and compare to what already exist instead of comparing it to what could exist (what we invision it to become)

In Greenland if information isn’t shared and made publicly available through Facebook, it would have to go through public media organisations and these traditional media organisations have individual editors that decides and prioritise what is published and not. It is automised control vs manual control. Twitter isn’t specifically valued in Greenland as it isn’t regarded as community friendly in a nation with just 56,000 people.

I do think it is important for highly influential nations like the US to discuss how Facebook influences public information and I do think it is important to ask ourselves if we are comparing Facebook with what does not exist yet, that requires a natural development to properly solve. There are no shortcuts and the world is quite often bigger than we individually can imagine and a positive change we want can very well be a negative change somewhere else.

Greenland outside of Facebook’s radar

What I can share to contribute to the discussion of the public matters around Facebook is that Greenland is perhaps fortunate to have the ‘greenlandic’ language that is not supported anywhere online to track or correct. It’s been nominated as the worlds most difficult language to learn and the worlds most complex language to speak.

As Greenland is such a small group of people with such a difficult language, it is near-impossible and near-irrelevant for Facebook to support and influence with an intention to keep it healthy. Not only Facebook, but other nations to influence as well. The result experience is quite peaceful and with a small nation community where everyone knows each other, the public tone is quite calm, if not people around an offensive person naturally counteract to calm.

The Facebook experience in Greenland is difficult to replicate elsewhere, but I do think it has stories the world and the FB team can gain from.

Acquaintances vs Close friends

Facebook is what the community makes it. I appreciate to live in the part of the world where Facebook is highly positive for our community compared to what I read in the news, particularly from one of the largest cities where acquaintances and public interests are more important to base conclusions from than from our close friends and small community interests.

The Facebook experience is not universal and that is important to remember and maintain. The Facebook experience is very much different from place to place and has a dynamic personalisation based on how you use it the most. It might not enhance your public strengths as much as Twitter and Instagram does, but it sure does enhance your presence and activities in the communities your are a part of.

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