Facebook fatigue: is it time to beat a new path?

2010-12-11 09:31

I can just hear the chorus of protest from devoted users as I dare contemplate Facebook fatigue.

But in the past few months, I have noted a subtle, but significant, shift in people’s relationship with the social network.

It is not so much that people are not using the network, but how they are using it.

Three years ago, when Facebook spread virally across the planet and embedded itself into popular culture, everyone who joined the network were only too happy to “collect” friends in cyberspace.

Some of these friends were long-lost schoolmates, others were acquaintances or work colleagues whom you knew but didn’t have a close relationship with.

A small percentage of these collected friends were your actual friends: people with whom you would spend valuable face-to-face time with.

In terms of keeping up-to-date with friends and relatives who lived overseas, Facebook proved to be an invaluable tool, but pretty soon we all discovered that some of those acquaintances or work colleagues – ironically the ones who were particularly dedicated to updating every moment of their lives – were not friends you really wanted to keep in touch with (there was a good reason why you never nurtured the friendship in the first place).

The amount of time Facebook consumed also became problematic; if not for the user, then definitely for the employer in the workplace.

Then, along came a series of new or alternative social-media networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Foursquare, each with a unique function and allure, and each consuming another slice of your time-deprived day.

So now, not only do we have to contend with the never-ending treadmill that is email, but we also have to manage a business profile on LinkedIn, share information or monitor breaking news on Twitter, and (for a growing geotagged community) check in to see where your friends are on Foursquare.

Which brings me back to Facebook fatigue.

Facebook is no longer the social-media king.

Granted, it outstrips the other networks in terms of users, but even though the market share of the other networks may be smaller, they are proving to be just as useful, if not more so.

Our time is finite, and when one has to chose between (let’s call a spade a spade) vacuous commentary between “friends” on Facebook, and nurturing potential business contacts on LinkedIn, or following breaking news on Twitter, there really is no doubt as to how you will prioritise your precious time.

The fact that Facebook has now moved into a commercial realm (even supermarkets like Spar have a Facebook page), tells me that your early adopters (the trendsetters) are sure to be experiencing Facebook fatigue and placing their energies elsewhere.

It comes as no surprise, then, that those early adopters are test-driving a newly launched social-media tool called Path.

Path is a lot more discriminating than Facebook or Twitter as it only allows you to create a network of 50 friends, the maximum number that research has shown to be realistically manageable.

The other difference is that Path is a picture-sharing network, but only allows you to share photos in real time, taken from your mobile phone, so regrettably (or thankfully), you won’t be able to post your entire holiday album online.

Path will hopefully kickstart a new trend for being a lot more discerning on other social networks. We are, after all, still judged by the company we keep – even in cyberspace.

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