Are you spending less time on Facebook than you once did? According to a recent report from Pew Research, over a quarter of all Facebook users in the USA (27%) plan to spend less time on the social network in 2013 than in 2012. And 61% of users report having taken a ‘Facebook vacation’ where they stopped using the site for several weeks.
Overall it appears that US users of Facebook are becoming more nuanced in their use of the social network – happily spending time away from the site and expecting to spend less time on it overall.
This is not necessarily a sign of them abandoning the site, or indeed that Facebook has ‘had its day’ as some may report. But it does suggest that the role Facebook plays in their life is changing. New tools, site and networks are fulfilling needs that were once served by Facebook. And users are becoming more mature in the way that they use social media tools and the ways they engage with people.
To understand more about this report it is worth exploring the motivations of people who take Facebook vacation, as well as of those who plan to spend less time on Facebook.
Why take a Facebook vacation?
61% of US Facebook users report having taken a break from the site that lasted ‘several weeks’. The most popular reason for the vacation was that they were ‘just to0 busy’ (21%) of users; with 10% saying they were just ‘not interested’ and another 10% that they thought it was a ‘waste of time’.
The reasons that we might expect for taking a break from Facebook (such as being on an actually vacation) were less frequently cited (only 8% of users in this case).
So for the majority of users taking a Facebook vacation, the site became irrelevant for them (for the period of the vacation). There was either nothing to tempt them onto it during a busy period in their life, or they felt somewhat disenchanted with the site and just wanted a break from it, possibly feeling they wouldn’t lose something.
This is significant for Facebook and shows the potentially precarious nature of social networks. People use it because it is relevant – either because of the content that is shared on it or because of the people they can communicate with through it. If people feel that the site is becoming less relevant they will drift away. Taking a Facebook vacation here and there, but ultimately using the site less and less unless it becomes more relevant to them again.
Why spend less time on the site?
When asked to think about the role they expect Facebook to play in their life in 2013, just 3% of US users of the social network expected to spend more time on it this year; 27% of users expected to spend less time on the social network. But perhaps the more interesting is to explore how this breaks down by age:
- 38% of those aged 18-29 expect to spend less time on Facebook in 2013 than in 2012
- 26% of those aged 30-49
- 17% of those aged 50+
So the younger Facebook users are the ones planning to spend less time using the social network. This is not necessarily a problem for Facebook, the younger audience is more likely to try out new sites and tools when they emerge and to develop a place for them in their life. They will be more promiscuous than some of the older (and it would appear more loyal) Facebook users and social networks may have to learn to live with this promiscuity.