Economics of Facebook

Facebook. This singular website has substantially changed the way we communicate with the world. You can share who you are, what you like, where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re doing. As I prepare myself for graduation, I’ve realized that Facebook, as a form of communication, changes depending on what life stage you are in. So, being an economics major, I decided to draw a graph that shows how the effectiveness of Facebook as a form of communication differs with age as well as the frequency of use.

In elementary school, Facebook is not effective as a form of communication whatsoever because you are below the ages of 11. You probably are not allowed to have an account and even if you did have one (for some insane reason), your friends wouldn’t. You would still have to call them up on the phone to schedule a playdate. Therefore, the frequency of use is virtually non-existent. The only way Facebook is at all effective at this stage is if used to communicate with online predators.

Now, you’ve had your 12th birthday party and are headed into 7th grade. You are PUMPED. You have chosen to ignore the fact that puberty is staring you straight in the face and you’re about to hit your awkward stage. Why? Because your parents have trusted you enough to allow you to get a Facebook account. Now, let’s assume that this situation happens to the majority of the middle school population. We see a drastic increase in frequency of use as well as effectiveness. I shouldn’t have to explain why. Have you visited a middle schooler’s Facebook recently? Not only do they probably have three times the number of friends you have, they are much more likely to post the ever-present bathroom mirror self-portrait via their mobile phone. They also use their profiles as a make-shift AIM (I’m assuming  whoever reads this will know what AIM is…), having complete conversations on each other’s walls. They plan their lives on Facebook and, since all their peers are doing it to, this actually works!

This positive trend continues into high school. Though high schoolers tend to use Facebook less often than middle schoolers, do to the major life events that occur during these four years, Facebook remains a great way to keep all your friends in the loop. How else is everyone going to hear about the championship football game, or the fact you got your driver’s license, see those pics from the high school musical, or how awesome you look in your prom dress? They may have less conversations via Facebook, but photos alone dominate this life stage. According to my research (not really, it just sounds more legit when I say that), more profile photos are taken during this stage.

Graduation comes and goes and BAM. You’re in college. We begin to see a decline in use and effectiveness during this stage. In the beginning of college, Facebook remains a great way for you to share your excitement. You’ve freak’n made it to independence! You’re meeting so many new people (and adding them), going to parties with camera happy freshman, pledging a frat/sorority, etc. But alas, life hits you. You start to use your free time to study instead of Facebook stalk your friends. Mid-college you spend most of your time watching Hulu or videos on YouTube. Facebook is a great place to share with the world the likes of Hamster on a Piano or the “Where’s the chap stick?” girl. And then, before you know it, you don’t have any free time at all. You’re working a part-time job or internship. Frequency of use starts to decrease dramatically. Since everyone is so busy, Facebook is no longer a good way to communicate or plan things. Yes, we all still make Facebook events for everything but we all know that no one really looks at those things. I’m sure you just as upset as I was when Facebook took away the “Remove from my Events” option, forcing you to publicly “decline” an invitation. And then, you discover Twitter and you start using Facebook less and less. Next thing you know, Google+ come out and you see some of your friends ditch Facebook altogether (something I may never understand… Google+? REALLY?).

Before you know it Senior year comes around and you’ve been hired for your first job. You’ve cleansed out your friends list, unfriending that random guy/girl you met at freshman orientation (and planned on being best friends but never saw again), and you’ve discovered that LinkedIn is a better, more professional way to network. And, if you’re in the corporate world, its all about networking. You rediscover the world of e-mailing (adults in the business world use e-mails for EVERYTHING. Even if you are sitting in the cubicle next door… true story.) and quickly realize that Facebook takes way too much time and effort to maintain.

Time goes by and your middle aged. In this stage you have Facebook for three reasons: (1) You’ve got kids who you want to keep tabs on. (2) Your high school or college reunion is coming up and you want to make sure you are better looking and more successful than your classmates, or (3) you’re one of those “hip” adults who are trying to keep up with the times. People in this stage use Facebook more frequently than the Post-grad stage simply because they are bored and Facebook is new again. It takes this stage weeks to learn how to use the newest Facebook update but they are determined to prevail. Facebook is not very effective in this stage and e-mail is still prevalent.

And now the stage of retirement. This stage is a healthy mix of recent retirees and grandparents. They don’t use Facebook that much and probably check it about once a week for updates on loved ones and what the grandkids are up to. Not a very effective way to communicate do to either not understanding how Facebook works in the first place or being to preoccupied with playing golf.

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