On Oct. 4, Facebook announced it had hit the one billion users mark. Roughly one in seven humans has a Facebook account. In Canada, analytics company Socialbakers estimates that 55% of Canadians are signing in, making wall-posts, liking cat pictures. All of this is to say, you probably don’t know many people—grandparents aside—who haven’t yet logged on. And if you do, you’ve probably been the recipient of a mildly self-righteous why-I-abstain speech. While their points are valid—FarmVille requests are the worst—they fail to realize their involvement in social media is quickly becoming non-negotiable. Not having a Facebook account in 2012 is a bit like not having a telephone in 1986.
Earlier this year, German magazine Der Tagesspiegel pointed out that both James Holmes, the accused Dark Knight Rises shooter, and Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Breivik had something in common: neither were active on Facebook. (Breivik had an account, but hardly used it.) The message was clear: abstaining from Facebook is a sign you’re anti-social, maybe even a psychopath. That’s a bit much. But think that only a few years ago, a perennial topic in newspaper career sections was whether the things you post to Facebook might harm your career; today not being on Facebook looks worse.
According to a survey conducted by social monitoring service Reppler, more than 90% of employers visit a candidate’s social media profile as part of the screening process. Ambrosia Humphrey, director of human resources at Vancouver-based HootSuite, says she’s only ever reviewed a couple applicants who had no social media presence—and neither got the job. “You’re actually doing yourself a disservice by not participating,” she says, adding that colleagues in other industries tell her the same thing: they’re taken aback when they can’t find a candidate online—the worst is not having a LinkedIn account. It could mean they’re asocial or bad at networking, or that they have something to hide. Says Humphrey: “You’re going to stick out in a way you don’t want to.”
Amani Saini wasn’t trying to hide anything when she deactivated her Facebook account in 2010. A close family member had been hospitalized, and she found the trivial nature of her friends’ posts frustrating. “I do care about people’s lives, but I don’t need the minor details,” she explains. But in July, the 26-year-old grad student was asked to organize a meet-and-greet for Liberal party supporters in Victoria. One riding association president said it would be hard to organize a party without Facebook. “I found out later that that was true,” Saini says. “The vast majority of people who came were people I had contacted through Facebook.” And that’s just it. Facebook has become more than a place to share the minutiae of our lives—it’s one of the most powerful communication tools of our time.
Trevor Melanson is an online editor at Canadian Business and liker of cat pictures