Is Facebook dying?

Sure, it's got nearly a billion members. But I for one am dealing with a serious case of Facebook burnout. And I know I'm not alone.

Ok, I admit: The question that serves as the headline for this post seems on the surface a bit absurd, if not downright crazy. Any day now Facebook is likely to announce its 1 billionth member, giving it a population more than three times that of the United States. And it has barely scratched the surface in many developing countries.

According to Internet World Stats, Facebook has less than 200 million members in Asia, about 110 million in South America, and only 40 million in Africa. Plenty of room for growth there. So what’s my problem?

The reason I ask if Facebook is dying is simple: It’s because my kids have pretty much stopped using it. Just the other day my 16 year old son told me he rarely logs in, because he’s tired of other people’s whiny status updates. He’d rather spend his time surfing Reddit or Stumbleupon (when he’s supposed to be doing his homework, naturally). In other words, he’d like to do his own random discovery, rather than rely on his Facebook friends to do it for him.

My 13-year-old daughter, a much more social creature, was all over Facebook for the first two years she was on it. She has at last count at least three accounts, possibly more, which she uses for different purposes – some of them just to play those stupid spammy Facebook games and quizzes.

But lately she has discovered Tumblr, where she can build her own blog and find others that interest her – without getting all this stuff she doesn’t care about pushed at her by her parents, relatives, and assorted friends. (I am already banned from ever commenting on anything she posts; I can lurk, but I’m not allowed to “Like.”)

In other words, the generation that follows Gen Z (for Zuckerberg) has grown disenchanted with the very nature of Facebook. And I gotta say, I’m starting to see their point.

More and more when I am bored and looking for distraction on the Web I go first to Twitter. Last night, for example, I spent a ridiculous amount of time following the #47percent hashtag and all the snark that erupted from Mitt Romney’s “off the cuff, inelegant” comments about the half of America he apparently detests.

I was using my iPad, whose Twitter app is far superior to the experience (and miles ahead of any mobile app Facebook has ever extruded). It let me quickly view links without having to launch my browser or leave the app. So I spent a solid hour skimming through tweets and pulling up articles as they piqued my interest.

twitter ipad app.jpg

(Naturally, moments after I post this I discover that Twitter has updated its iPad app, and it's now not nearly as good -- though still better than Facebook's. Damn you, Twitter. Damn you to hell.)

Contrast that to Facebook, which at the same time fed me a stream of people’s photos of their dogs, gardens, fashion shows, and the like, sprinkled in with occasional political polemics. A search for “47 percent” there pulled up way fewer results and was far less satisfying.

In other words, on Twitter I can find the stuff I’m interested in. On Facebook I can only see the stuff other people are interested in.

From a privacy standpoint, Twitter is much more transparent in how it operates. Anyone can follow you, and if you tweet something in public, anyone can see it. As my tweep @jimfenton points out, “Facebook gives the illusion of privacy but doesn’t deliver it.”

I might also add that Twitter generally fights for the right of its members to stay private, even if it doesn’t always win. I can’t recall a single high profile case where Facebook put itself on the line protecting its members. Am I missing something?

So for me, I’m finding myself spending less and less time on the Big Blue Brother, and more time chilling at 140 characters a clip. My kids are moving on, too. Which makes me wonder: What about you? Has Facebook jumped the proverbial Squalus carcharias for you, too?

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynanwrites. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Now read this:

Facebook's 'man in the middle' attack on our data

Making Facebook private won't protect you

How to keep hackers out of your Google, Facebook, and Twitter accounts

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