Facebook saw huge influxes of new users when it opened its network to high-school students, and then later, to everyone with an e-mail address, but now the exclusivity factor is gone and there are no new groups to add.
As Facebook has increased its mass-market appeal, it has also started to alienate some first-generation Facebook users. Based on my experience at Dartmouth, I think Facebook will continue to see steady growth from its core base, students, but not at the same rate as before.
When I was a freshman, Facebook was brand new and only available to the Ivy League and a few other schools. When it started expanding, some people joined an elitist Facebook group called “I remember when Facebook was for smart people.” When Facebook expanded even further–to include high-school students–groups like “Dear Facebook, I graduated. Why is high school here?” popped up. Now, Facebook users are venting their distaste for all of Facebook’s new features in groups like “Facebook has officially gotten OUT OF CONTROL!” and “The New Facebook sucks.”
Facebook’s new mass-market appeal has eliminated its niche appeal. Facebook simultaneously has begun to lose its novelty for some of the first-generation users and to drive them away with the same features that are meant to attract them.
Personally, I use Facebook a lot less than I did as a freshman. I haven’t added any of the new applications, and for the most part, neither have my friends. SAI reported that the average Facebook user comes back to the site less often and stays around for shorter periods of time, and that correlates exactly with my experience.
If I get an e-mail notification that someone has added a photo of me or written on my wall, I’ll go on for a minute to check it out, and then log off. I used to go on Facebook to procrastinate, and now I usually go on for a specific, short-term purpose. I wouldn’t go so far as to delete my account, though (although I’m glad it’s finally possible to do so); being a member is still a necessity in college.
I don’t know if Facebook is supplanting e-mail, because the BlitzMail culture at Dartmouth is so pervasive–to the extent that cell phones are not allowed in some fraternity basements. I do think that Facebook might be more popular than e-mail when communicating with friends at different schools, however.
I’ve never used MySpace, but I know that before Facebook invited high-school students to join, MySpace used to be considered the high-school network, and Facebook the college network
SAI contributor Kelsey Blodget is a senior at Dartmouth College, where she was editor of The Dartmouth. She is not related to SAI editor Henry Blodget.