Uzair Choughtai on: Is Facebook losing its ‘friends’?

The Facebook population

As much as I probably hate to admit it, I check my Facebook every day. Partly out of habit, partly because I have this odd feeling that if I don’t, then I’ll be missing out on something special. One of my friends might say something hilarious. Someone might post a cool video. Or, ALERT THE PRESS, someone might change their relationship status!

Most of my friends have a Facebook page. Some of my relatives in their 40s and 50s have a Facebook page and some of my friends grandparents have even joined! If the generational usage is increasing, how is Facebook losing its followers?


The social media phenomenon doesn’t seem like it’s fading, just branching out into smaller variants. It seems as though people are continually searching for newer ways to communicate. Perhaps today’s social networker wants a site that caters more to their individual needs, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ tool, such as Facebook. If this is the case, users may flock towards niche social sites such as Songkick (track your favourite bands and find upcoming gigs near you) or PictureSocial (a social platform for photographers).

I think most people have a good understanding of how everything moves through cycles. Something new will come along; the sceptics will moan about it and then end up jumping on the bandwagon anyway. HURRAH… on we all go. We’ve had the likes of Myspace, Hi5, and Bebo, and now we have Facebook and Twitter. Will these lose their popularity too eventually?

Facebook user distribution

According to the BBC “Figures from a Facebook monitoring site ‘Inside Facebook’, states that during May 2011, Facebook lost six million users in the US and 100,000 in the UK.”

Is that a lot compared to the number of overall users or simply a mere dip in the ocean that we know as ‘social media?’ To put things a little more into perspective, an estimated 150 million people (about half of its population) use the social networking site in the US, with about 28 million users in the UK. The small reported drop in numbers is hardly going to do much damage right?

Some people have spoken about the idea of ‘Facebook fatigue’ as being one of the main reasons for the loss of its users. So why might people be getting tired of Facebook? This could be due to a number of reasons: maybe people have run out of things to use the site for, or they just have less free time in the day, and therefore less time to kill.

The most common reasons for the Facebook decline seem to be due to the seasonal changes in user activity and the controversial issues over Facebook security. If that second part makes you go “What? Facebook has security?! Really?”, then one specific aspect to refer to is the face-recognition tool which allows users to be automatically tagged by matching their face to images on Facebook’s database. (More info)
Didn’t want your friend to tag you in that photo of you looking like a total muppet from the other night? Whoops, too late….

“Right now, Facebook has the largest collection of identified photos outside of governments. I don’t think we know what the ramifications of that will be.” (Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer at BT)

There seem to be a few misconceptions about how the face-recognition function works. On one hand it’s making the dull task of tagging your friends simpler and faster. Whilst on the other hand it raises questions about confidentiality and security. It’s almost like all your information, even down to the science of how your face is mapped, is sitting on an enormous online database somewhere. Ooooh. Scary stuff.

So does Facebook have a future? I still use it as much as I did a few years ago, but just in a very different way. I used to write on my friends’ walls a lot more and talk general nonsense, marvelling at this new sensation that had been thrust onto my life. Things changed however, and now I use it more to share interesting and inspiring things that I’ve found or seen, whilst still managing to find the time to spread a little nonsense now and again. Maybe its because I’ve just ‘grown up’ and all that novelty that Facebook initially presented to me has worn off.


So the question is, how do YOU feel about Facebook, and has the way you use the social site changed since you first joined? Does the invasion of privacy online bother you? Which other social networking sites have you joined? We want to hear your opinions; you know where the comments box is!

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