Friday, 27 November 2009

A Facebook member? Or a Facebook user?

Back in June 2007 my colleague Fiona wrote on this blog about quitting Facebook. A couple of months later, she reactivated her account*, having by then become resigned to at least having a profile on the thing, mainly due to being "in charge of social media at Prompt" at the time.

But over the last month or so, and over two years later, that first post has unexpectedly started to attract a number of commenters looking for somewhere to share their own Facebook disaffections.

Now, admittedly, when I say "a number of commenters" I mean, well, er, four (plus one in Feb). But for this blog that's still quite a few, and combined with noticing my own increasingly infrequent visits to Facebook, I can't help wondering whether something is going on?

Is there, perhaps, a particular generation of Facebook adopters now reaching a natural tailing off point in Facebook use? Might there be a natural lifespan to how long one might continue to find Facebook interesting - or any other social network? Is it all the fault of Twitter?

Certainly, four or five comments isn't exactly what you might call sufficent evidence to prove any of those theories - and perhaps it's hardly enough even to begin asking the questions. Moreover, that the commenters variously complained of starting to feel uncomfortably voyeuristic, narcissistic or addicted when using Facebook, probably rules out the possibility that they've all decamped to Twitter (although conceivably you could at least be more anonymous on Twitter, if you chose). Nevertheless, it still strikes me that perhaps after a certain point there really isn't all that much to keep Facebook users interested?

In theory, the site has a lot going for it, of course: it combines group e-mail, a photo album, event invites, birthday reminders, gaming, etc., all in one place. But even so, how many of us still find ourselves spending anywhere near as much time on it as we used to, say, a year ago? And doesn't iGoogle, or the start page on Chrome or Opera, let you do more or less all of that anyway, only you'll have selected links to more useful and fully-featured sites and online apps than many of those on Facebook?

Granted, Facebook does remain of at least some value to me, as a (more or less) permanent contact point between myself and anyone I don't see very often, or whose contact details are prone to change. But leaving aside what is basically a passive function, what is there on Facebook to make me as active a user as I was for a long while after I first joined?

Somehow, it's all just lost its novelty, or it's provided better, or less clunkily elsewhere.

Perhaps it's just me, but I wonder: might there be a lot of others now who would more accurately call themselves Facebook members, and not Facebook users?


*Facebook is basically the Hotel California of social networking, you can check out, but you can never leave.

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