Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Time spent on Facebook is on its way down

Pew Research released its survey results of 316 Facebook users asking whether they have taken a break from using the site.  About 61% of all Facebook users took several weeks off from actively using Facebook in the past, indicating that their Facebook activities are on the way down.

There were many reasons.  Most frequently cited reasons were not finding time to be on Facebook (21%), not interested in using the site (10%) and irrelevant content (10%).

Source: http://pewinternet.org
Pew also reported the usage slowing down the most significantly among younger users (18-29 of age) than older populations.

Source: http://pewinternet.org

Pew Research's survey results match Garry Tan's quick poll showing wide range of social network adoption among younger users and Josh Miller's personal observation of tenth graders picking up new social networks as early adopters.  Younger users have been moving away from Facebook and looking for easier more mobile-friendly social networks like Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat.

What's also interesting to note is that many users have cited lack of interesting content to draw them back out on Facebook.  Although Facebook started out as connecting with long lost friends and keeping touch with them, they need to provide relevant content and reasons for them to return in addition to hanging out with friends.

Here's why.  Messaging your friends and keeping up with them may work well for some users.  But for most of the users think of Facebook as a personal social network.  For example, people think twice about friending their bosses on Facebook.  That's because most of us want to separate our work and life.

When Facebook is considered as private space, it's difficult to see users using their Facebook accounts to send/receive emails with strangers.  Although Facebook does not prevent from receiving emails, in user's mind it is not an option because Facebook is a personal social network.  It's no wonder.  The basic relationship that connects people together in Facebook is becoming a friend with someone else.  But the real world relationships are much more nuanced and complex.

Given your friend network size is roughly estimated to be Dunbar's number, in other words it's not growing without bound, when new user population starts to slow down Facebook cannot continue to serve new content from newly found friends.  And that slowing down of new user population is exactly what is happening with Facebook.

I'm sure Facebook realizes this.  Let's wait and see how Facebook solves this problem.

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