Twenty-some-things who shun Facebook
Comment of the Day

December 16 2011

Commentary by David Fuller

Twenty-some-things who shun Facebook

This is an interesting article on 'social saturation' by Jenna Worthham for the NYT and IHT. Here is the opening:
Tyson Balcomb quit Facebook after a chance encounter on an elevator. He found himself standing next to a woman he had never met - yet through Facebook he knew what her older brother looked like, that she was from a tiny island off the coast of Washington and that she had recently visited the Space Needle in Seattle.

"I knew all these things about her, but I'd never even talked to her," said Mr. Balcomb, a pre-med student in Oregon who had some real-life friends in common with the woman. "At that point I thought, maybe this is a little unhealthy."

As Facebook prepares for a much-anticipated public offering, the company is eager to show off its momentum by building on its huge membership: more than 800 million active users around the world, Facebook says, and roughly 200 million in the United States, or two-thirds of the population.

But the company is running into a roadblock in this country. Some people, even on the younger end of the age spectrum, just refuse to participate, including people who have given it a try.

One of Facebook's main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated.

"I wasn't calling my friends anymore," said Ashleigh Elser, 24, who is in graduate school in Charlottesville, Va. "I was just seeing their pictures and updates and felt like that was really connecting to them."

David Fuller's view I would not be posting or commenting on this if it was just a social media story. However, Facebook is heading towards a public offering which has generated a considerable amount of interest. I have seen IT analysts predict that Facebook is probably a $200 billion float and likely to be worth $300 billion within another year or two. An acquaintance who founded and runs a very successful financial site thinks that Facebook will be bigger than Google.

I disagree, although I know that Facebook has eaten into Google's advertising revenue. Ordinarily, I would defer to the many people who know a lot more about IT and the social media phenomenon than I do. However, some social convenience aside, Facebook seems trivial to me, appealing mainly to our narcissistic and voyeuristic instincts. Everyone has these characteristics, to a greater or lesser extent, but are they really the foundation for an enduring company of global consequence?

Perhaps, if most of the world signs up and stays with Facebook. The fact that I will not is of no consequence but it matters if young, intelligent middleclass people are leaving Facebook. That is what the article above suggests is beginning to occur and the readers' comments are also insightful, as is this additional paragraph:

Facebook executives say they don't expect everyone in the country to sign up. Instead they are working on ways to keep current users on the site longer, which gives the company more chances to show them ads. And the company's biggest growth is now in places like Asia and Latin America, where there might actually be people who have not yet heard of Facebook.

How many serious people want to sift through more ads? They are also on Google, and an annoyance, but at least the search engine is a seriously useful site. I probably use it at least 20 times a day, for convenience and also because it educates me.

Media hype may ensure a successful float for Facebook but if the share price surges initially, as we sometimes see, I think many active traders will look for short selling opportunities. Meanwhile, Google (monthly, weekly & daily) is testing the upper-side of a two-year range. A successful upward break, which seems likely provided the share remains above last month's reaction low near $560, would suggest a new up trending phase.

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