Although Member Numbers Remain Strong, Maturing Social Giant Now Thought Of As a “Chore” For Many, Especially Millennials

Can the Social Giant Regroup To Avoid Fizzling Out?

Has Facebook become less fun? That’s something many users – especially those in their teens and early 20s – are asking themselves as they wade through endless posts, photos “liked” by people they barely know and spur-of-the moment friend requests. Has it all become too much of a chore?

Chatter about Facebook’s demise never seems to die down, whether it’s talk of “Facebook fatigue,” or grousing about how the social network lost its cool once grandma joined. The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project recently found that some 61 percent of Facebook users had taken a hiatus from the site for reasons that range from “too much gossip and drama” to “boredom.” Some respondents said there simply isn’t enough time in their day for Facebook, an AP news release reports.

If Facebook’s users leave, or even check in less frequently, its revenue growth would suffer. The company, which depends on targeted advertising for most of the money it makes, booked revenue of $5.1 billion in 2012, up from $3.7 billion a year earlier. But so far, for every person who has left permanently, several new people have joined up. Of Facebook’s 1 billion global users, 618 million sign in every day, reports the news release by AP writer Barbara Ortutay.

Many uses Facebook in the same way that others use email or the telephone. But she prefers using Facebook to communicate because everyone she knows is there. That’s a sign that Facebook’s biggest asset may also be its biggest challenge.”We have never seen a social space that actually works for everybody,” said danah boyd, who studies youth culture, the Internet and social media as a senior researcher at Microsoft Research. “People don’t want to hang out with everybody they have ever met,” Boyd added, the news release reports.

Might Facebook go the way of email? Those who came of age in the “You’ve got mail” era can reminisce fondly about arriving home from school and checking their AOL accounts to see if anyone sent them an electronic message. Boyd, who is 35 (and legally spells her name with no capitalization), recalls being a teenager and “thinking email is the best thing ever.”

Few people share that sentiment these days. Ian Bogost, professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, recently listed email alongside “Blood, frogs, lice, flies, pestilence, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, death of the firstborn” in a Facebook post. “I was just going through my daily email routine, reflecting on the fact that it feels like batting down a wall of locusts,” Bogost said.

Although email has gone from after-school treat to a dull routine in the space of 20 years, no one is ready to ring its death knell just yet. And similarly, Facebook’s lost luster doesn’t necessarily foreshadow its obsolescence.

“I don’t see teenagers leaving in droves,” boyd says. “I just don’t see it being their site of passion.”

In early March, Facebook unveiled a big redesign to address some of its users’ most pressing gripes. The retooling, which is already available to some people, is intended to get rid of the clutter that’s been a complaint among Facebook users for some time.

Facebook surveys its users regularly about their thoughts on the site. Jane Leibrock, whose title at Facebook is user experience researcher, said it was about a year ago that she noticed people were complaining about “clutter” in their feeds. Leibrock asked them what they meant. It turns out that the different types of content flowing through people’s News Feeds – links, ads, photos, status updates, things people “liked” or commented on – were “making it difficult to focus on any one thing,” she said. “It might have even been discouraging them from finding new content,” she added, according to the release.

The new design seeks to address the issue. There is a distinct feed for “all friends,” another for different groups of friends, one just for photos, and one for pages that users follow. As a result, said Chris Struhar, the lead engineer on the new design, the new feeds give people a way to see everything that’s going on.

“The amount of stories you have available to see has continued to increase,” Struhar said. “What we try to do now is give you more control over what stories you see in your feed. “With that kind of control, the company hopes people will spend more time on the site and share more information about themselves so companies can target them better with advertisements.

In the seven years since Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in his Harvard dormitory, Facebook has moved from a closed social networking service available to college students to a place where one seventh of the world’s population logs in at least once a month. No other social networking fad has accomplished such a feat.Facebook predecessors MySpace and Friendster shone brightly but fizzled once finicky teenagers moved on to the next big thing. To boyd, though, Facebook is not only a destination site, but “a technical architecture that underlies many different things.”

“It’s not about new features to lure people back in,” boyd says. A bigger question now, she says: What does it mean when your company is providing a vital service, rather than “a fun, glittery object”?

Article written by Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog April 5, 2013