Facebook is celebrating its eighth birthday – Here is to many more!

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iconsTHUNDER BAY – Editorial – Facebook is celebrating its eighth birthday. This marks a shift in communications and lifestyles for many people, that many people likely believe they could not live without. Facebook has made a major impact in Thunder Bay, however many people likely don’t realize it. First there are about 70,000 addresses on Facebook listing Thunder Bay as their hometown. The reach in our community is massive.

One of the impacts was in the last civic election.

The election of Keith Hobbs to the office of Mayor was fueled by social media, and in particular Facebook. That is not to say that simply by getting a strong Facebook presence led to the election of a new Mayor, but that through social networking and door-knocking, Hobbs was able to reach past traditional media, and connect directly with voters.

The path to political victory appeared, in many ways to be ignored by many. That likely means that those who understand the growing impact of social media, and the Internet in Thunder Bay will have a massive headstart in future civic elections in Thunder Bay. Many are content to believe that the status quo will stay in place.

Mayor Hobbs Boys and Girls Club

Mayor Hobbs is Thunder Bay’s first “Facebook Mayor”. He will not be the only politician elected in our community who follows a similar path to victory. Hobbs has over 4000 friends on Facebook, and over 1400 people on his Facebook page.

It is a major lead, the next closest civic politician with that many connections on Facebook is Ken Boshcoff with over eight hundred friends. Minister Michael Gravelle has just over 1400 friends, and Bill Mauro has just over 1200.

At the federal level, Bruce Hyer has 3029, and John Rafferty has 1764.

The local political scene is likely to continue to see a growing reach via social media. It is also likely that many of our elected representatives are likely to overlook the massive impact and opportunities that are offered online. They will heed the ‘traditional approaches’ – likely a path in the future to political irrelevance. It is one of Thunder Bay’s traditional approaches to change. It is also one that is being swept away faster than almost anyone can see.

Why? Once upon a time the statement “The medium is the message” was seen as revolutionary. Marshall McLuhan was one of the first people in the world to realize that the medium itself was the key, not simply the information it carries that should be examined.

The ways that people have shared information have changed over time, ranging from a town crier, to newspapers, to radio, television, and now via the Internet to be a blend of all mediums. The consistant has been the messages.

People are always wondering what is new. The growth of social media has brought us back in many ways to original times where it was individuals sharing with each other. Facebook has become a medium unto itself, where people can trade news and information quickly. So too has Twitter, those short messages share information and in many cases likely eliminate the perceived need, especially in sports to invest time reading about the game. The final score is the “medium”.

The one constant is that as the mediums have changed is that the speed of information transfering from person to person is far faster. In a relatively short time frame, less than two hundred years, communications has changed dramatically. When you consider that at the peak of the fur trade, a message from the fur trading post at Fort William to the Northwest Company’s Governors in Britain would have taken up to a year and a half to two years, only a century and a half ago, while today, that message would be completed instantly.

In the media, the speed of the shift is impacting large and small providers. Today, traditional journalism is under challenge because “the medium is the message”. Twitter, Facebook, websites, and Google are easily replacing traditional delivery mechanisms. The old ways of the weekly paper for example offer news that is often over a week old, or more.

On Crimebeat, over the past months, Netnewsledger.com has featured how progressive police services around the world are realizing the importance of having social media and friendly relations with all the new mediums can mean a safer community. The police services which choose to lag behind are missing opportunities to make the communities they serve safer.

Think of it, there is only a certain amount of time each person will dedicate each week to checking out the various mediums. Each week a massive stack of printed flyers hits mailboxes in Thunder Bay, most are online as well.

Increasingly the trip from the mailbox to the recycling bin is faster and faster.

The impetus for change is upon the industry and upon communities. The amount of time people have for whatever medium they choose is limited, the time invested online comes at the expense of more traditional media. It is something that smart communities, and smart politicians are realizing, and shifting their efforts to be where the people are.

Thunder Bay, and Northwestern Ontario are seeing economic impact of this massive shift as many paper mills have closed. We are continuing to see it as efforts to revitalize traditional forestry are faced by enormous challenges.

The future belongs to those who embrace it. Politically, change has already led the way, it will likely be followed by more of our future leaders, both politically and economically.

Happy Birthday Facebook, here is to many many more.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer

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