Pew is out with its new survey of social media use and Facebook and it confirms the idea that we might be approaching what Slate’s Farhad Manjoo calls “Peak Facebook” in the United States. Two-thirds of Americans online are Facebook users. This is a slight increase from 2011 when 59% of internet users were on Facebook. But perhaps the most telling data is this:
20% of the online adults who do not currently use Facebook say they once used the site but no longer do so.
8% of online adults who do not currently use Facebook are interested in becoming Facebook users in the future.
What does this all mean? I wrote a book last year that argued that the need to connect with others powerful and Facebook has created an appealing “architecture of disclosure” that draws users into their own semi-intimate networks. The fact that the push out of Facebook seems to be stronger than the pull into Facebook at the present time suggests that Facebook is not the be all and end all of disclosure and connection. It would be interesting to know more about “Facebook defectors” and why they left. Pew has some data on this:
(21%) said that their “Facebook vacation” was a result of being too busy with other demands or not having time to spend on the site. Others pointed toward a general lack of interest in the site itself (10% mentioned this in one way or another), an absence of compelling content (10%), excessive gossip or “drama” from their friends (9%), or concerns that they were spending too much time on the site and needed to take a break (8%)
Other factors seemed to be at play here. It may be that there are two competing interests at play: a need to disclose and connnect versus a need to create distinct individual identities that are constantly exposed to novelty. The 10% who cited a “general lack of interest” might be at a place where they seek more novelty from their networks than they are getting. We should think of Facebook as part of this continuum. For those who are prone to or craving connection, Facebook is attractive. For those craving differentiation and novelty, less so.