6 things Facebook says about America
May 18th, 2012
09:17 AM ET

6 things Facebook says about America

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer/correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

Facebook's $104 billion initial public offering comes at a time when the United States is suffering a bout of self-doubt. Many wonder if America is falling behind as other countries are catching up fast. And yet the Facebook phenomenon did not occur in a vacuum.

You might say it could have happened anywhere. But it happened in America. And there was a reason for that.

A company created almost on a whim by a handful of college students rocketed to worldwide popularity in under a decade, bringing together some 900 million users and in the process transformed the way people communicate and interact with each other.

It's no coincidence that Facebook, like Google, Apple, Twitter and Intel, started in the United States. It's also no coincidence the car, the airplane, the light bulb and the telephone were invented here. The fact that America is the birthplace of revolutionary ideas is not an accident.

Here are some of things Facebook tells us about America - not just what is right but what requires careful, urgent nurturing to preserve.

Still brewing that magic potion
The modern world knows there is a special, mysterious magic about America. Despite many serious problems, the main ingredients of that unique recipe remain. The United States has created an environment that fosters innovation and promotes creativity. There is no better place on earth to break with convention, think differently and blaze one's own path. America's government may look dysfunctional, its schools leave much to be desired and its financial institutions have the potential to cause disasters, but on the individual level the drive to dream big is as strong as ever. And the structure of support for those who have great ideas is still in place.

How America shapes the world
The days when Washington's wish was the world's command are over. But America's "soft power" lives on. The great events of our time have unfolded partly as a result of American technologies. The Arab Spring of 2011 was aided by Facebook and Twitter. Interpersonal relationships have been recast by social media. The industrialized world could hardly function without its Google searches and iPhones. American movies, TV shows and music are emulated.

The drive of immigrant minds
America's not-so-secret formula has always included attracting immigrants and helping them and their children flourish. According to a report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, more than 40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. One of Facebook's founders, Eduardo Saverin, was born in Brazil. Google's co-founder, Sergey Brin, came from Russia. Zuckerberg's ancestors, as well as those of Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, were Jewish immigrants. As long as America continues to attract and welcome people with intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit, the country will pulsate with creative force.

Designed in America, made in China
Americans may be rolling out one great idea after another, but other countries are getting many of the jobs that come from its inventions. The iPad alone has created 700,000 manufacturing jobs in China. While American students are falling behind in international tests, the U.S. still has one of the best higher education systems in the world. We need to make sure our students not only attend college, but study the areas that will be critical to the future: science, technology, engineering and math. Maybe then they will find the ways that will allow American ideas to fuel employment in the country.

Government policies matter
Facebook is successful because bright minds created it, venture capitalists supported it and consumers embraced it. But that's not the whole story. Facebook and other similar high-profile companies would not have made it without the right government decisions, ones that made the Internet possible or lowered the price of the microchips. While government funding of key industries is crucial, so is the decision to get out of the way at the right moment. America is one of the world's best places to do business since government does not interfere much with the private sector. China is trying desperately to become a science and technology competitor to America, but it drove Google out of the country and its heavy-handed tactics have led to technology that mostly copies other countries' ideas.

It's not always about money
In the United States, people can make monumental fortunes when they have good ideas. But many of the most influential entrepreneurs are driven more by a sense of mission than materialistic pursuits. Zuckerberg could have sold out years ago and lived a life of luxury. Steve Jobs seemed unconcerned with worldly comforts. The real driver for these innovators is a wish to create and build. Those people whose only goal is to make millions sometimes live less fulfilling lives and occasionally cause serious trouble for the economy. Getting rich is fine, but it's good for society and the world when individuals work to build more than just a fortune. Young technology entrepreneurs can follow the examples of the giants of their field. As a society, America should highlight the need to create and build, not just accumulate.

So, hurrah for Facebook. Hurrah to those who have transformed the world and our lives. And congratulations to America for creating a place where people's ideas can become reality. Now learn from what you did right, America. And remember, others countries are also learning from America's success. The secret is out.

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Topics: Culture • Technology

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. JAL

    Lets see those grubby hands!

    May 18, 2012 at 9:20 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Indeed, good for Mark Zuckerberg and his team. Let's hope that success and wealth would corrupt him!

      May 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        sorry, I meant to say WOULDN'T corrupt him.

        May 18, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
      • JAL

        You can peak under the first pancake after you pour the batter, but you must flip it to see if it is burnt. We will find out soon enough. My guess- burnt. People (myself included) will always demand too much from social networks.

        May 18, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
      • JAL

        Facebook started to get hokey. That is when they should have gone public, right-before the hokey.

        May 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  2. joe anon 1

    it happened in america because we have the thieves, greedsters-beyond-compare, liars, and spy agencies to make it happen.

    May 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  3. Aaron Chaney

    Romney vs. Frankenstein (Obama)

    Put simply, better the devil you don't know. Vote Romney.

    May 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Reply
  4. Mostafa,Dhaka.

    I read those 6 things and find realistic. America leads the world not because the mighty military but the people who has open,creative and rule to world mind and free private sector. Every society has some sorts of crack in the system but still America purtuing the " purtute of innovation" within. The vast size of the country and economy has given them advantage. What America lag behind is misreading the minds of common people of the world and that's very foreign policy is mostly liable for that. How ever good to "innovativeness". One day we want to see an unified world without visa,passport,indiscremination of color,sect,race and free of poverty. And hope America can do it!!! Long live Planet.



    May 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  5. KL

    Facebooks tells us you can make money with my private wish to meet s.o. for a cup of coffee, see friends. This isn't something special, but normal and why the hell should anybody count my meetings, get name, address and all we arrange before in electronic data to store it, to make assumptions about my coffee-trinking habbits, about the way I like to arrange my private life? I don't like my telefone-call manipulated, I always rejected stasi-methods, paparazzi and stalking, and know I should press also the Like-it-button wherever there is one, to make me more and more like a programm, a zombie, a robot? Sorry! Zuckerberg isn't america, it's just that America offers people a platform, like they do on wallstreet with all crazy ideas to make money with. I wish a little less materialism and ideas to get rid of this! Inventions needn't be so directly inventing in my private, natural, unique life. Probably we should invent something to protect us from that! Is this america, too?

    May 21, 2012 at 11:31 am | Reply
  6. Nadine Tinnea

    An initial public offering (IPO) or stock market launch is a type of public offering where shares of stock in a company are sold to the general public, on a securities exchange, for the first time. Through this process, a private company transforms into a public company. Initial public offerings are used by companies to raise expansion capital, to possibly monetize the investments of early private investors, and to become publicly traded enterprises. A company selling shares is never required to repay the capital to its public investors. After the IPO, when shares trade freely in the open market, money passes between public investors. Although an IPO offers many advantages, there are also significant disadvantages...`-`

    http://www.healthwellnessbook.comSo long

    May 20, 2013 at 12:56 am | Reply

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