Facebook at 20

As Facebook turns 20, we take a look at how the biggest social media site in the world has changed our lives.

Listen 49:30

Twenty years ago, a group of college sophomores created a website that would end up changing the world — fundamentally altering how we connect with other people, how much we know about each other, and how we curate our existence. That website was Facebook.

In the years since, Facebook quickly grew from a quirky site for college students to a global powerhouse — one that can affect everything from how we feel about ourselves to the outcomes of elections.

On this episode, a look at Facebook as it turns 20 — its history, its ongoing impact, and what we really know about how it operates. We hear stories about a curious coincidence linking Facebook to a defunct government surveillance project, why many researchers have mixed feelings about Facebook, and how the website’s ever-changing features transformed the lives and mental health of young people.


  • Facebook started out as a website by college students, for college students — and while it’s since been eclipsed by apps like Snapchat and TikTok, its impact continues to affect the lives of college kids. Reporter Liz Tung talks with longtime college counselors Marcus Hotaling and Richard Shadick about how they’ve seen social media transform students’ lives and mental health.
  • We talk with Wall Street Journal technology reporter Jeff Horwitz about his investigation into Facebook in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. His book is “Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Harmful Secrets.”
  • When Pip Çalışkan was diagnosed with a rare cancer 30 years ago, she felt isolated and alone with her many unanswered questions — until she launched a Facebook support group that connected her with fellow patients and experts around the world.

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