On Tuesday, I live blogged the inaugural Web In Travel Australia conference. It was a really solid conference, (expect a post on that shortly) but what really frustrated and confused me were some comments that were made during the open question time at the end of the day.
I’m not sure what caused it, but one of the speakers launched into a tirade when asked what company wouldn’t be around in 2 years.
“Ah” I thought to myself, “one of these”. You usually experience these types in the comment section of pretty much any Techcrunch post about Facebook. They’re usually screaming about how some other service with stronger privacy features is so much better and usually throw in the odd “Remember what happened to Myspace” remark. But this rant wasn’t about privacy or failed social networks.
“Facebook is for drunk kids to put their pictures online. Once all these kids grow up and get a life, Facebook will disappear. These people should go out and have real relationships, maybe they’d be able to find a real girl”.
A stat (I use the term loosely) was also thrown in there saying six million users have dumped the service in the last little while. Of course, the user-base grew by about two hundred million in that time, but we won’t talk about that. What I will talk about is the numbers.
Thankfully for me and everyone else, people study the users of social media in a rational and measured way. To set the record straight, I dug up some facts that I think should shed some light on the situation.
According to Pew Research Center, the percentage of American adults that use social networking sites in 2010 went up 21% from 2008 (from 26% to 47%). This moved the average age from 30 to 38, meaning the average user, statistically, is definitely not a drunk teenager.
As for getting out and getting a real girlfriend, that’s happening on Facebook, too. Nancy Baym, a University of Kansas professor studied online relationships and found that stronger ties were made using the social platforms.
“So it’s (social networking sites) a continuous link of hanging out in the halls with your friends between classes or hanging around the water cooler at the office.”
I think we’re at the point where most of us know someone that met online and they usually seem pretty happy. They say friendship is the basis for all relationships, so why not Facebook friends?
I feel it’s dangerous to entertain those who push misguided opinions on the impressionable. A conference is a learning environment; those who attend are there to gain a better understanding of their target audience and how best to communicate with them.
If there is one thing that can be taken away from this, it’s that no matter what you hear around the office or on blogs, do your own research and come to your own conclusions.
By all means, feel free to have an opinion, but PLEASE get the facts first.