Last Monday was Facebook/social networking night in English 516. I had meant to post about this earlier, but it’s been another one of those weeks. In any event, I was somewhat surprised by the generally negative reaction my students had to the ol’ book of face.
As a course requirement, I made them sign up for a Facebook account at the beginning of the term so that they could get a sense of what it was all about. Out of 14 students, I’d guess that about 8 of them didn’t have Facebook accounts already. There were folks who were not crazy about jumping into the Facebook thing at all. And, as became clear last week, the majority of students in the class either didn’t care about Facebook one way or the other, or they were pretty vocally against it. As far as I can tell, there was only one student who considered themselves “addicted” to Facebook, and that student seemed to think it to be a habit like smoking, something that would be best to quit. Generally speaking, most of my class is 20 to early 30 somethings. Most of them are teaching college first year writing or in secondary schools, and they seem more than aware of the extent to which social networks expose them to the world. This is actually quite a bit more aware than my students were just a few years ago.
This group’s reaction makes me think that the Time Magazine article “Why Facebook is for Old Fogies” is surprisingly true, and I think it is also why I predict Facebook is sooner than later going to take a nosedive. It’s a toss-off article, but I think that Lev Grossman has it about right. I am of an age where I like that Facebook allows me to catch up with people from my past (a lot of my students expressed dismay about this), I no longer care one way or the other about high school (though I do like the idea of reunion-type activities), high school and grade school pictures of me are now cute, I’m no longer cool, etc. In contrast, I think that a lot of my students are just young enough to think differently.
And this is why I think that Facebook is going to tank. The original target audience for Facebook, college students and younger, have wised up. I have no idea where they are going to nowadays or what is coming next, but I do know that when the fastest growing group on a social networking site are in the 50+ demographic, you’ve got a “hipness” problem.