As the third world adopts the U.S.'s biggest social networking site, Americans are leaving it by the millions.
I told you last month why I thought everyone should get off Facebook, and it turns out people listened. Though the social networking behemoth continues creeping toward 700 million global users, six million Americans quit the site in the month of May. That's the first time Facebook has lost U.S. users in over a year. The site also posted losses in Canada, the U.K., Norway, and Russia, while most of its gains came in countries in the developing world, including Mexico and India.
What explains the stunted growth? Several things, the first of which is a growing concern about privacy amongst Facebook users. It was inevitable that a social site that turned its users into a commodity for advertisers would eventually be a turnoff for some, and that looks to be happening at Facebook en masse. Beyond that, competing sites like Twitter, which demand less engagement and information from users, are also siphoning away some former Facebook loyalists.
One also can't underestimate the value of cool when talking about Facebook's decline. In March a study showed that most Americans are now on Facebook, a development the site Facebook Insider says has consistently been a harbinger of slow times ahead: "By the time Facebook reaches around 50 percent of the total population in a given country (plus or minus, depending on internet access rates in that country), growth generally slows to a halt." What Facebook initially had going for it was exclusivity—it was for young Ivy Leaguers. Now that moms and grandmas are on it, it's lost some of that early cachet.
Then again, maybe it was just my essay.