I used to be an avid Facebook user. Like most people a few years ago I was posting all sorts of things I found on my wall, plus photos, snarky quips, comments and other assorted digital ephemera. Over the last couple of years though my interest in Facebook has waned, and while I still check it, it’s not nearly as often as it used to be. For some time now I haven’t felt alone. It feels as though many of my friends have cooled on Facebook as well, and it turns out my feelings might have been right.
Pew Research released a research report this morning that noted 61% Facebook users have begun to take a break of at least several weeks from Facebook for a variety of reasons, an onslaught of gossip, over-sharing, quality of people’s posts, worthless information, advertising, privacy etc.
This doesn’t mean that the social network giant is losing steam. At least not in the good old USA. 67% of American’s have a Facebook account, as compared to only 16% using Twitter. By its own count, Facebook Inc. has 1.06 billion users worldwide who check in at least once a month. (This number does include millions of duplicate and fake accounts.) Out of that 1.6 billion more than 150 million users are in the U.S.
What the Pew study does suggest is people are using Facebook less. The study determined that 7% of all internet users used to participate on Facebook and now no longer have accounts at all. Another 20% said that they were simply too busy with their own lives to follow the constant stream of status updates, quotes and photos posted by others or to post them themselves.
Now with all that said, here are some other interesting finds from the study:
- 59 percent of Facebook users said the site is about as important to them as it was a year ago.
- 12 percent said Facebook is more important to them than it was a year ago and 28 percent said it has become less important.
- 8 percent said they took a break from Facebook because they were spending too much time using it.
- 69 percent said they plan to spend the same amount of time on Facebook in the coming year. Twenty-seven percent plan to spend less time on the site and 3 percent, more time.
In response to the Pew study Facebook said that its growth and user engagement remains strong. “As we announced last week, Facebook has grown daily active users across all regions, ending the year with more than 1 billion monthly active users, 618 million daily active users and 680 million people accessing Facebook from mobile devices,” according to a company statement. “Our announcement came on the heels of independent analyst reports which concluded that Facebook is the most downloaded mobile app in the U.S., and that time spent on Facebook accounts for over 20 percent of all time spent on mobile apps in the US.” and I’m sure it is. My question is, does this indicate the beginning of a shift in social networking habits?
In internet terms, Facebook is now old. It has been around for more than five years and as we all know, internet user attention spans are short. Even though it has become a ubiquitous part of many people’s lives, I can see where people are getting tired of it, and are looking for the latest flavor of the month.
The next year or so should be an interesting one for Facebook and company. They purchased the next big thing in social networking, “Instagram”, but with the controversy surrounding changes to Instagram’s privacy settings many longtime users jumped ship. Other emerging social platforms are nipping away at Facebook, but will probably have little impact on them. So I wonder will Facebook fade, or be eclipsed by some yet unknown platform created in a dorm-room by a 20 something soon to be college drop out?