Call it today’s “top news:” UC Davis students say they are simply not as enthusiastic about Facebook as they used to be. But does this represent a trend among all users?
“Facebook has become sort of a staple,” said Shelby Gomez, a senior history and anthropology double major. “You check your e-mail, check [your] Facebook, check [your] Twitter. I’m not as impressed.”
Now that Facebook is six years old, students say it just does not hold the excitement it used to. John Theobald, a UC Davis lecturer in the communication department, is not surprised by users’ apathy.
“One thing I’d say is people tend to stop thinking about things when they get so used to them being around. That’s something that might be going on with Facebook – that it is sort of taken for granted,” Theobald said.
Shel Holtz, principal of online communication consulting firm Holtz Communication + Technology, said that people may be experimenting with other forms of social media and networking.
“There are alternative means for people to stay in touch with each other, and people gravitate toward the ones that appeal to them and meet their needs more. I know people who are blogging less because Twitter accommodates their needs,” Holtz said. “As new stuff comes along, the younger you are the more inclined you are to say, I’m going to give this a try and wow, it really does what I need better than the others.”
Juan Tapia, a sophomore economics major, said that he thinks that nowadays, people join Facebook just to keep up with their friends.
“It’s useful to be able to remain in touch with friends and to look for other people,” Tapia said. “But at the moment, people are joining Facebook just because other people are on Facebook.”
Kristin Burns, marketing and communications director for UC Davis Undergraduate Admissions, disagrees that students are becoming apathetic about Facebook.
“I haven’t seen less interest in students – if anything, we seem to get more interactions on our page and class groups,” Burns said in an e-mail interview. “For example, the transfer class group definitely seems more active than in past years.”
There are currently over 50 pages for various UC Davis departments, activities and services. The UC Davis page has almost 16,000 members.
Burns said Facebook has allowed Undergraduate Admissions to reach out to prospective students and minimize the stress they are feeling throughout the application and admission process.
“Facebook really changed the face of customer service for us. We’re not just responding to student questions, we’re building a community with them around all things UC Davis,” Burns said. “The ability to connect a prospective student who is interested in a specific major or sport directly with UC Davis students from that major or sport through Facebook is very powerful.”
However, some students still report using Facebook less than they did in the past – not more.
“I only go on once every other day,” said Sandy Phouanglasy, a junior human development major. “I never update my status. I used to use the applications when I was into it, but now I’m busier, classes are harder and I have work.”
This may not be good news for Facebook, which recently launched a new effort to expand its presence online. Users can “like” and “recommend” content on external websites that support Facebook, such as CNN, IMDb and Trip Advisor. This activity is then published to a user’s news feed.
With Facebook’s increased integration with the rest of the World Wide Web, privacy has become an increasingly common complaint among users, who are concerned that advertisers have too much information about them.
“Anytime you have a technology that makes it easy to get information disseminated, there’s going to be a downside,” Theobald said. “It’s harder to control information when you have all this recording technology, all this visual technology, everything’s digitized and everything’s transmitted without wires.”
But for Susanne Rockwell, University Communications’ web editor, Facebook is an ideal way to pass information along to thousands of people.
“The UC Davis community is having thoughtful conversations about what’s important. Facebook allows the community to quickly learn about campus news – within minutes of posting – and respond almost immediately,” Rockwell said. “A major impact from Facebook is that it has allowed the campus to have active community conversations, ones that wouldn’t necessarily have occurred before.”
One thing is certain though. People should expect to see social media such as Facebook more deeply ingrained in everything that we do, Holtz said.
“I think we’re going to stop calling it social media at some point because all online media will, at some level, be social. At some point, it would be like a ‘social bar.’ You don’t call it a social bar; bars are social,” Holtz said. “So media, particularly electronic media, will be social inherently. It’s still early days but at some point it’s just going to integrate into everything we do online. It’s not going anywhere. You can’t put this genie back in the bottle.”
ERIN MIGDOL can be reached at email@example.com.