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Why TIME's 2010 Person Of The Year Means Nothing In 2010

Congrats, Zuckerberg! You’ve officially made the list – up there on TIME’s cover issue hall of fame alongside Churchill, some popes and Hitler. But unlike the awards of their pre-internet era, the selection couldn’t mean less today. POTY, you’re obsolete.

Let’s not mistake the irrelevance of TIME’s pick for the irrelevance of Facebook, or even Zuckerberg, in the history of technology. They’ve both changed almost all of our lives, even if only in the most superficial of ways. Some of us use Facebook to talk with wonderful people whose friendship might have otherwise shriveled up and died had it not been for a way to trade photos and messages. Some of us use it as a way of remembering what we did last night. Some of us just use it as another way of being vain (Ugh, do my cheekbones look good in this new profile picture? Is my music section obscure enough?). But putting its merits aside, anything as ubiquitous as Facebook is important qua its ubiquity – as is Zuckerberg. But Zuckerberg’s importance is something for historians to pick over sometime in the near future. The accomplishment that TIME beams over – that Zuckerberg “wired together a twelfth of humanity into a single network, thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the US” – has taken seven years. It’s an incredible feat, but it isn’t 2010′s feat. So why shine a glossy mag spotlight on him for this one, particular year? I want to ask you – what did Mark Zuckerberg do this year that he hadn’t done before?

Oversee some marginal redesigns?

Get caught in privacy imbroglios?

Find himself portrayed pretty well by Jesse Eisenberg?

How was this Zuckerberg’s year? It wasn’t. For a roundup of entities that actually made 2010 the strange contortion of good and awful it was, you can look, ironically, at TIME’s “Runners Up” list: The Tea Party. Hamid Karzai. Julian Assange. The Chilean Miners.

Well, maybe not so much the Chilean Miners.

But to think that Assange – a man whose actions in less than one year have shocked governments around the world, sent the US State Department scrambling with its face beet-red, put INTERPOL on a controversial manhunt, and triggered internationally coordinated hacker retribution – was overlooked, is asinine. Assange’s determination to make information available at any cost is unprecedented in the history of information – and 2010 was the year his cause ignited, whether you consider him villainous or virtuous.

But we don’t need TIME to tell us any of that. Hell, you don’t need me to tell you any of that. Like the cables he leaked, Assange’s story was everywhere, spread online through a diversity of mediums, un-suppressible and undeniable despite the attempts of world governments.

You blogged about it. You GChatted about it. You texted about it. You commented about it here. And, we now know, you tweeted the hell out of it.

Statistical troves like Twitter’s 2010 Year In Review show (and validate) more than TIME can ever hope to in 2010. We don’t need a magazine to tell us what we care about. We know what we care about – because we’ve make it important, not an editorial board.

On Twitter’s list of most-mentioned people, where is Zuckeberg? Nowhere. Instead, we have Tween Internet Baron Justin Bieber (OMGZ!!), Lady Gaga, Nobel Prize-winner Zilda Arns, and, of course, Julian Assange. But no Zuck. Granted, TIME’s Person of the Year isn’t a popularity contest, but if the man had made such an earthquaking difference in the past 365 days, wouldn’t people be talking about him? Or talking about him at least enough to bump top ten Twitter trender Joannie Rochette—a Canadian figure skater?

Facebook is nowhere to be seen on Twitter’s trends. But that’s not the point. We don’t need Twitter either, lest it just become a 140 character TIME at some point in the future. We don’t need to be told what, who, or when matters. We make, spread, and grant importance to the world on our own, thanks to our ability to take the internet out of our pockets and do whatever the hell we want with it. And that’s what matters in 2010, not a sweatshirt-wearing gazillionaire.

Now, if you’d be so kind, please share this post on Facebook.


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