Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his online juggernaut — which just crossed the threshold of 2 billion users — can offer a "sense of purpose" and "community" in the face of declining membership in churches and other groups.
"People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity — not just because they're religious, but also because they're a part of a community," he said during a rally last week in Chicago for Facebook users who've built online community-support groups, CNBC reported. "So that's why it is so striking that over the past few decades, membership in all kinds of communities around the world has been declining, in a lot of places by as much as one-quarter. That's a lot of of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else."
Churches have seen a decline in numbers. According to Church Leadership, church membership dropped almost 10 percent in the 1980s, fell another 12 percent in the 1990s — with some denominations reporting a 40 percent membership drop — and the early 2000s saw an even further decline.
"So this is our challenge," Zuckerberg said. "We have to build a world where every single person has a sense of purpose and community."
He compared the Facebook users in the audience who started community-support groups to leaders such as church pastors and Little League coaches.
"A church doesn't just come together by itself," Zuckerberg said. "It has a pastor who looks out for the well-being of the congregation. And if someone hits hard times, they're in charge of making sure that people have the food and shelter they need. A Little League team has a coach who motivates the kids and helps teach them how to hit better. Leaders set the culture, they inspire us, they motivate us, they give us a safety net and they take care of us."
Zuckerberg said Facebook's artificial intelligence algorithm can power the website to more effectively organize online communities, CNBC noted.
"We started this project ... to see if we could just get better at suggesting communities that were going to be meaningful to you. And we started building some technology and artificial intelligence to do this. And it turns out it works! It works," Zuckerberg told the crowd. "In six months, we've helped ... 50 percent more people join meaningful communities on Facebook than had joined them in the whole history of the product before that."
Zuckerberg's ultimate goal? To get 1 billion of its users to join "meaningful communities" on Facebook. In fact, he said, "we're going to change Facebook's whole mission to take this on."
"If we can do this, it will not only reverse the whole decline in community membership that we've seen for decades around the world, it's gonna start to strengthen our overall social fabric and bring the world closer together," Zuckerberg said.
Here's a clip of Zuckerberg addressing Facebook users who started community-support groups. The relevant portion begins after the 10:30 mark:
(H/T: The Daily Wire)