Facebook takes a plunge

Facebook just had a terrible day in the stock market -- losing $120 billion in market capitalization in a single day. That's rough.

For perspective, $120 billion would buy more than 16 million acres of Iowa farmland (at the 2017 average of $7,326 an acre). And that would be quite the spectacular achievement, since we only have about 33 million acres of farmland in total.

So if you can imagine vaporizing the market valuation of about half the farmland in Iowa, that's about what disappeared today.

But should you shed a tear for Facebook? I wouldn't suggest it. As I said at the very start of 2018, Facebook is a lot like dynamite: A tool with giant potential for both good and bad, depending on the hands in which it is used.

Will a sticker-shock day like today force a reckoning for the Facebook team? Will it spur them to double down on trying not just to be a neutral utility, but a force for good in the world? Or will it be seen as a day of "easy come, easy go"?

I don't have any ill will towards the tool, the company, its employees, its users, or its shareholders. But for a little too long, we've been sold on a techno-utopian vision of connectedness as a good thing unto itself. But sometimes, connection is a bad thing: The artificial divisions instigated here in 2016 by Russian efforts make that clear. It's long past time to bring real and thoughtful ethical standards to the tools of social media.

Brian Gongol

Brian Gongol

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