RAW: Facebook Fatigue – Part 1

By Lewis Dowell

It was about the 15th time I had automatically switched on my Facebook to see what was going on amongst my cyber friends when the only thing new to see was a picture some one had posted of their cat. It had is two front paws cocked up and was sitting on it’s hind legs. The caption read “My cat apparently thinks he’s kangaroo”… it was time to get rid of my Facebook.

Although it would appear I was jumping off an internet craze, I am apparently jumping on to another one. I am joining the millions globally who are deactivating their Facebook accounts.

In the last 6 months the U.S has posted a loss of around 6 million users and Canada a loss of 1.5 million. This is the first time these countries have posted losses. In Europe Britain, Norway and Russia have all posted losses of at least 100,000 each.

Like any growing internet craze it has of course been given a catchy sounding buzz name. ‘Facebook Fatigue’ is apparently sweeping across our offices and homes.

Yes this term has appeared in news reports and studies and is probably being looked at by a government committee with a confusing acronym. The Committee of Internet Trends and Social Media Overall Demographics or CITASMOD.

Even posted on Sitepoint.com is the ‘5 signs of Facebook Fatigue”.

1. Not responding to every poke and invitation

2. No withdrawal symptoms

3. Culling Facebook friends

4. Are your parents or grandparents on Facebook?

5. Have you rediscovered the interent?

Is this you? Or are you still determined to reply to every invitation, get the shakes when you’ve been away from Facebook for 10 minutes, still keep every single friend you accept, even the guy you met in town that time last year who knew that guy you knew in school. Do you have no close relatives on Facebook, not even the Aunt who sees herself as the ‘hip’ relative and sends you a friend request once a month, and have you not used any other website in 4 months because Facebook has all your online needs covered? If this is you then don’t worry, you don’t have ‘Facebook Fatigue’. But you may be suffering from several other dependency issues.

It’s hard to read exactly how many users they have lost, why they have lost them and what effect it is having on Facebook, its shareholders and its users. This is because Facebook, the organization, chooses to keep their views and official reports on user declines to themselves.

The sites official statement on the drops is;

“From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions… Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool, which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn’t designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook.” Mmmm, yes, and what that means we will never know but if it isn’t kind of accurate, just exactly what coverage are advertisers paying for?

There is one theory to why Facebook do not seem overly phased by the decline, that is they are no longer obsessed with getting every single person in the world hooked up to the Facebook intravenous (have been reported to be targeting a billion users globally), but are looking at new and more creative ways of extracting money from the people they already have hooked. Sort of like a drug dealer.

Instead of looking at new and creative ways of attracting new users, Facebook is looking at better ways of advertising and getting people to buy Facebook credits, especially younger teens, who although have a soft spot for online games, are unsure and unlikely to spend money on the internet.

Facebook is also looking to ‘Google-ise’ itself by broadening its reach across the internet starting email systems, a partnership with Skype, moving further into the mobile phone sphere, is experimenting with streaming movies and is rumoured to be looking at starting a new social music service. As Google is no longer just a search engine, Facebook no longer wants to be just a social networking site.

However some see the change in trend as being less aligned with the economic goals of the company, and are choosing to look at the decline more philosophically. They are viewing the drop as “internet crazed public are turning off their laptops and rediscovering the world”, describing scenes of pale 22 year olds, walking outside and seeing the sun for the first time in 3 years before sketching a picture of a tree.

Some are connecting the decline of Facebook to the decline of people using the internet to by groceries and clothing. They seem to believe that the decline is the start of an anti-internet and anti-technology revolution. Like all of a sudden we’ll be throwing are laptops and mobiles away and begin writing letters to each other and meeting friends in parks and on beaches rather than on chat rooms in order to reconnect with ‘life’. This may be a tad ambitious as although they have seen a decline, they still have somewhere between 700- 750 million users worldwide.

Still, there is one phone company in Britain that is marketing a phone only phone and it is going gangbusters as a product – or so they tell us.

In my personal opinion it is too early determine anything official out of the drop. Although 6 million in the U.S sounds big, compared to the numbers that remain it’s relatively small. If the decline remains constant then I’m sure we’ll hear more about it, and indeed might even hear something substantial from Facebook themselves. But of course when something so new, that has been growing so quickly, consistently and significantly over a sustained period of time, then sees a decline, people are going to take a step back and assess the situation.

I myself, now into my fourth day Facebookless, am seeing withdrawals. It’s funny how the things you miss aren’t actually any of the helpful functions of Facebook, like communication or invitations. It’s more the odd status update like “reloading the staple gun at work makes me feel like Liam Neeson from Taken”. It’s the ability to be creative with your thoughts and share pictures, video clips and photos with your friends that attracts people to Facebook. The things you write and files you share are seen as an arm of your personality and creativity.

However, after a while, what you thought was creative and funny becomes tedious and unoriginal. And it turns out that you’re not on Facebook because you’re bored, but bored because you’re on Facebook. ‘Facebook Fatigue’ is not the beginning of the end of social networking, but maybe just a sign that it’s not for everyone. But I’m sure a re-jig and some new functions down the road will be enough to re-attract the deactivated.

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  1. […] the drop off in Facebook’s appeal, at least in North America, (see Part 1 of this series at Facebook Fatigue Part 1 by Lewis Dowell) with the buzz of Facebook addiction starting to wear thin for those who first got […]

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