Many users in teens and early 20s are asking themselves as they wade through endless posts, photos “liked” by people they hardly know and unprepared friend requests. Has it all become a lot of a chore?
“When I first got Facebook I literally thought it was the coolest thing to have. If you had a Facebook you kind of fit in better, because other people had one,” says Rachel Fernandez, 18, who first signed on to the site four or five years ago.But now? “Facebook got kind of boring,” she said.
Chatter about Facebook’s demise never seems to die down, whether it is talk of “Facebook fatigue,” or grousing about how the social media network lost its cool once grandma joined. The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project recently got 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 for Facebook.
If Facebook Inc.‘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. Facebook has more than 1 billion users around the world. Of these, 618 million sign in every day.
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.
Paul Friedman, a 59-year-old dentist in New York City, says he’s using Facebook less now than when he first signed on four years ago, but he’s not sure if the site has “become less interesting or that I am just less interested in it,” he says.
“I think that it may see more interesting in the past because it was a new ‘forum’” Friedman says. “Now it is old, it takes more unique content to make it interesting.”
That said, Friedman still uses Facebook to see if friends are organizing events, such as music gigs or yoga classes, or to check out interesting YouTube videos. He says seeing the same jokes reappear doesn’t really bother him.
“Ninety-nine percent of it is a waste of time anyway,” he says. “If it wasn’t for the one percent, I’d close my account.”
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, says 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 says. “It might have even been discouraging them from finding new content.”
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, says Chris Struhar, the lead engineer on the new design, the new feeds give people a way to see everything that’s going on.
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.
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