Facebook has had its fair share of bad press within the last year. The company’s IPO last May was panned by many as an across-the-board disaster, resulting in sinking shares, bad publicity and shareholder lawsuits that are only now arriving at a settlement. And, of course, many Facebook users were recently notified that they might receive a little cash for having their privacy violated by the site.
As someone who remembers the excitement of joining Facebook in its prime (back when you had to have a .edu email address to join), all of this criticism is a little hard to take. I remember listing “Bill Clinton” as one of my interests, sharing photos of my guitars, and the immense pride I felt the first time my wall exploded with messages on my birthday (it was only later that I learned that everyone’s wall explodes with messages on their birthdays). I sometimes miss the “is” that used to appear in all status updates, forcing you to confront life in the present moment.
I loved the digital community I was a part of, and I feel like Facebook is one of my old college roommates.
So I was a little offended this week when Salon’s Jacob Sugarman wrote about a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, theorizing about the end of Facebook. While people have been predicting the demise of Facebook for years, it was painful to see the numbers. CNET’s Jennifer Van Grove also cites the study as clear proof that Facebook is “a place of growing irrelevancy and tedium for an increasing percentage of adults.”
Some of the more amusing verbatim comments taken by both authors from the study reveal reasons why users take Facebook breaks:
- “I was tired of stupid comments.”
- “[I had] crazy friends. I did not want to be contacted.”
- “I took a break when it got boring.”
- “Too much drama.”
- “People were [posting] what they had for dinner.”
- “It caused problems in my [romantic] relationship.”
Man, Facebook. Why are you so hard to get along with? Is it time for us to break up?
So I did some research. I needed to mount a defense for my old college friend.
Sugarman and Van Grove do a great job of highlighting Facebook users’ discontent, but they fail to discuss other findings that point to Facebook’s continued dominance of the social media market. Digging into the actual report, for instance, gives us a more complex picture of Facebook user habits.
While it’s true that 27 percent of Facebook users plan to spend less time on the site in the coming year, 72 percent predict that they will either spend the same amount or more time on the site in the coming year. The study also shows that 16 percent of female users (and 7 percent of male users) say that Facebook has become more important to them over the last year, and 16 percent of female users (and 9 percent of male users) say that they spend more time on the site now than they did a year ago. And let’s not forget that Facebook became the most popular mobile app in the United States last month, indicating users must love the site enough to want to take it with them wherever they go.
But that’s not to say the social media giant doesn’t have its work cut out for it. Not only did the Pew study indicate that the site is losing popularity among younger users, but Facebook’s recently released Graph Search reveals the company is attempting to get a foothold in the search market. With search giants like Google spending a billion dollars a quarter on infrastructure, this will be no easy task.
So, is this the end of Facebook? I doubt it. There are simply too many users who still value the safe and familiar place that Facebook’s online community provides for sharing photos of grandkids, links to your favorite BuzzFeed story and letting your friends know what’s on your mind.
But what do you think? Is Facebook nearing the end, or is it going to continue to find ways to be relevant in building digital communities? Let us know in the comments. And while you’re at it, click here to find out how your organization can leverage Facebook and other social media channels to increase conversions.