There’s an old joke, attributed to former Yankees catcher Yogi Berra about a restaurant that goes “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
When I dug into the numbers of users and hours spent on Facebook I found that old joke fits pretty well. It seems everyone in the world is on Facebook but people aren’t going there, or at least they’re not going there as much as they did a year ago.
According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the number of daily users on Facebook went up in 2017 and at the end of the year, there were nearly 2 million more new Facebook users. That’s quite a feat for any business with the saturation Facebook has in the market. It’s even more impressive when you think of how many Facebook users die over the course of a year. A 14% increase is impressive and a little surprising.
Equally surprising is that even with another 2 million people who use Facebook every day, the total number of hours all Facebook users spend looking at newsfeeds and photos and communicating with old friends has dropped by 50 million hours. How does that even happen? The math just doesn’t seem to add up.
Daily Facebook users spend a total of 50 million hours less than they did last in 2016
Zuckerberg explained in the company’s 4th quarter report that it’s all part of Facebook’s plan. That the network wants people to spend less time on their accounts and more quality time with friends in the real world.
On his personal Facebook account, Zuckerberg posted that “One of the most important things we do is making sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being and for society overall.”
This comes at a time when much of the country is critical of Facebook because of the recent scandal involving the harvesting of personal data from 50 million people to a company using it for political advertising during the 2016 presidential election.
One thing I’ve noticed when I’m out talking to people about Facebook is that few people want to admit how much time they spend on it. Facebook seems like a ‘secret sin’ for many people. They’re logged in almost all the time but they’d never say how much time they spend mindlessly scrolling through their friends’ posts.
The decrease in the amount of total hours spent on Facebook came before the Cambridge Analytica scandal and before #deletefacebook became a movement. What will the first quarter of 2018 look like for Facebook and Zuckerberg? We will know within the next few weeks as the 1st quarter report should be available by the end of April.
And get this: despite the drop in hours spent on Facebook, Zuckerberg stated that business is good. Really good. Overall, he said, business is up 47% from 2016 through 2017.