Expert Commentary

Coming and Going on Facebook

2013 survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project on Facebook user practices.


Since Facebook debuted in 2004, the social media behemoth has become so entrenched that one out of seven people in the world have joined. (How much individuals actually use it is a separate question.) While the company has redefined what online social media can be, it has also frustrated users, with complaints ranging from a glitch that reposted older status updates in September 2012 to frequent site redesigns, accusations of privacy violations, the ability to recognize and identify faces in images, to name a few.

The latest Facebook innovation, Graph Search, is still being tested as of February 2013, but early adopters have given it mixed reviews. Among the company’s goals is to keep users more engaged and avoid the inevitable fall-off in interest. Marketers and business interests see Graph Search as a way to furthering their reach in social media, while others have called it “humorless, creepy and doomed to fail.” A Tumbler site and YouTube video take a humorous look at Facebook Graph usage so far. Facebook remains the social media giant to beat, but for how long?

A 2013 survey from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “Coming and Going on Facebook,” looks at how adults use Facebook and measures social networking engagement broadly. Researchers conducted both land line and mobile telephone interviews in December 2012 with a nationally representative sample of more than 1,000 adults living in the continental United States.

Key research findings include:

  • More than 60% of current Facebook users say that they have voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more. Twenty-one percent were too busy to use the site, 10% didn’t like the site or considered it a waste of time, and 9% reported too much “gossip/drama/negativity/gossip.” Only 4% reported taking a break based on concerns about privacy or spam.
  • One in five adults online (20%) reported that they had stopped using the site altogether, citing too much gossip, too much information and too much pressure to share information with others.
  • Perceived site value has declined overall, with 28% of Facebook users reporting that the site has become less important to them. However, 12% report that it is now more important and 9% report no change in their views. About 13% of users report that the amount of time they are spending on the site has risen over the past year, while 34% report spending less time on it.
  • With respect to user demographics, 42% of Facebook users ages 18-29, 34% of users ages 30-49 and 23% of users ages 50+ say that the time they spend on Facebook on a typical day has decreased over the last year.
  • Eight percent of online adults who do not currently use Facebook are interested in becoming Facebook users in the future.
  • More generally, some 90% of social networking site users — nearly seven in ten (69%) of all adults in the United States — maintain some type of online profile. More than 40% of these users check their site(s) “several times a day,” up from 33% in August 2011.

 Tags: Facebook, technology

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