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Why Italians Still “Like” Facebook Even As Enthusiasm Cools Worldwide

Interest in Mark Zuckerberg’s once red-hot Facebook is starting to cool off. In the United States, Canada and the UK, millions actually closed their accounts last year. For some reason, though, Italians are still wild about the website.

Italian comedian and director Roberto Begnini has 1.6 million Facebook fans
Italian comedian and director Roberto Begnini has 1.6 million Facebook fans
Gianluca Nicoletti

Last week, Bill Gates let it slip in an interview with the Daily Mail that the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, may be engaged to long-term girlfriend Priscilla Chan. The comment was enough to excite a new round of gossip about the world's youngest billionaire. But while chit chat about Zuckerberg's life, his girlfriend and even his dog, Beast, are at an all time high, the young entrepreneur's popular creation, Facebook, seems to be slowing down.

Over the past year, Facebook has lost about 6 million users in the United States. The social network's U.S. users still number approximately 150 million, but 1.6 million people in Canada and 100,000 people in the UK, in Norway and in Russia closed their accounts. Still, the site increased in overall number of global users 1.7%, thanks to growth in developing countries – and to Italy.

According to Corrado Calabrò, president of the Italian Communications Authority (AGCOM), Italy – along with Brazil – has the world's highest number of new Facebook users. In the past two years, the number of Italian Facebook users increased from 11 million to 20 million. The time an average Italian user spends on Facebook is also the highest in the world.

In more digitally evolved countries, social network fever appears to be cooling off. Some long-time Facebook users complain that the site is becoming less engaging. But it Italy, users still seem to be getting a charge out of the social network, which can offer gratifying virtual relations or an escape from boring office work.

An information technology research firm called Gartner Inc. uses the concept of a "hype cycle" to explain the recent levelling off of Facebook's once meteoric surge in popularity. The cycle is a graphic representation of the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies.

The first phase is the "Technology Trigger," or breakthrough. Next is the "Peak of Inflated Expectations' phase, which is followed by a period of growing criticism. Technologies enter a third phase, the "trough of disillusionment," because they fail to meet inflated expectations.

In the most digitally evolved countries, Facebook is going through this third phase, according to Gartner. The users who discovered it early on no longer have the motivation and emotional drive to use the social network.

If Facebook is to continue following the hype cycle, it will move next into its mature phase – the "plateau of productivity" – where interest in a technology stabilizes as people who rely on it for specific services remain loyal.

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food / travel

Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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