Facebook just reached 1 Billion members. A pretty amazing feat when you consider it's only been around for 8 short years. During that time it has completely changed the world we live in...well at least for the small niche billion of us who use it.

But that makes it as good a time as any to reflect on how we use such a powerful tool. Over the past decade we've probably seen more vices than virtues on display regarding our use of social networks. But, like a young student with anything new, it can take some trial and error before one starts getting it right. And no matter what kind of expert you are on online social networking, we're all young students at it.

One thing's for sure, however, it's not going away. The way we share and connect with each other has been changed forever. But, while the technology and format may be very new, the point of it all is not. 

Facebook thinks so, too. That's why they just released their first ever branding video (commercial) for Facebook as they celebrate reaching 1 Billion members. Here it is:

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, says this about it:

"For the first time in our history, we’ve made a brand video to express what our place is on this earth. We believe that the need to open up and connect is what makes us human. It’s what brings us together. It’s what brings meaning to our lives. Facebook isn’t the first thing people have made to help us connect. We belong to a rich tradition of people making things that bring us together."

“Today, we honor this tradition. We honor the humanity of the people we serve. We honor the everyday things people have always made to bring us together: Chairs, doorbells, airplanes, bridges, games. These are all things that connect us. And now Facebook is a part of this tradition of things that connect us too.

And I think that's the key for all of us going forward. Do we allow things like Facebook to make us more human? Or do we allow them to de-humanize us? They certainly have the power to do both (as do many things in life).

There is a huge opportunity (and responsibility) here for the Church to play a role in making sure the powerful communication tools of our day "honor humanity" by promoting the dignity of every person and by showing the world how they can be used for the greatest Goods. If you listen to Pope Benedict much, you know that he understands this very well. In fact, his World Communications Day message this coming year will be called, "Social Networks: portals of truth and faith; new spaces for evangelization."

In addition to how this applies to all of us as a whole, this is also a good time to reflect on our own personal use of social networking. Are we using it as a distraction from the real issues in our life? Is it tearing our attention away from the people we love most? Is it sucking too much time out of our routine to the point that we don't get the important things done each day? Is it a place that tempts us or provides an occasion of sin?

Or, rather, is it a place to pull up a chair with loved ones or with people we share interests with? A place to experience parts of humanity we never otherwise would have experienced? A place that reminds us that we're not alone when nobody else is near us? A place where we build others up and they build us up?

It's up to us to decide which it will be.

What do you all think of all this? And of how much Facebook has changed the world we live in?