Its stock has begun trading on the Nasdaq after the world’s definitive online social network raised $16 billion last week in an initial public offering that valued the company at $104 billion.
But although more than 900 million people worldwide check their Facebook accounts at least once a month, millions more are Facebook holdouts.
They say they don’t want Facebook. They insist they don’t need Facebook. They say they’re living life just fine without the long-forgotten acquaintances that the world’s largest social network sometimes resurrects.
They are the resisters.
SKIPPING THE HYPE
“I’m absolutely in touch with everyone in my life that I want to be in touch with,” MaLi Arwood says. “I don’t need to share triviality with someone that I might have known for six months 12 years ago.”
Facebook still has plenty of room to grow, particularly in developing countries where people are only starting to get Internet access. As it is, about 80 percent of its users are outside the U.S. and Canada.
But if Facebook is to live up to its IPO hype and reward the investors who snatched up its stock, it needs to convince some of the resisters to join. Two out of every five American adults have not joined, according to a recent Associated Press-CNBC poll. Among those who are not on Facebook, a third cited a lack of interest or need.
If all those people continue to shun Facebook, the social network could become akin to a postal system that only delivers mail to houses on one side of the street. That means fewer opportunities for Facebook to sell ads.
Thomas Chin, 35, who works at an advertising and media planning company in New York, says he may be missing out on what friends-of-friends-of-friends are doing, but he doesn’t need Facebook to connect with family and closer acquaintances. “If we’re going to go out to do stuff, we organize it (outside) of Facebook,” he says.
TOO MUCH WORK?
Some people don’t join the social network because they don’t have a computer or Internet access, are concerned about privacy, or generally dislike Facebook.
Those without a college education are less likely to be on Facebook, as are those with lower incomes. Women who choose to skip Facebook are more likely than men to cite privacy issues, while seniors are more likely than those 50-64 years old to cite computer issues, according the AP-CNBC poll.
About three-quarters of seniors are not on Facebook. By contrast, more than half of those under 35 use it every day.
Steve Jones, a professor who studies online culture and communications at the University of Illinois at Chicago, says many resisters consider Facebook to be too much of a chore.
“We’ve added social networking to our lives. We haven’t added any hours to our days,” Jones says.
Jones says many people on Facebook try to overcome that by multitasking, but they end up splitting their attention and engaging with others online only superficially.
Arwood, 47, a restaurant manager in Chicago, says she was surprised when colleagues on an English-teaching program in rural Spain in 2010 opted to spend their breaks checking Facebook. “I spent my time on break trying to learn more about the Spanish culture,” she said. “I went on walks with some of the students and asked them questions.”
Kariann Goldschmitt, 32, a music professor at New College of Florida in Sarasota, was on Facebook not long after its founding in 2004, but she quit in 2010. In part, it was because of growing concerns about her privacy and Facebook’s ongoing encouragement of people to share more about themselves with the company, with marketers and with the world.
She says she’s been much more productive since leaving.
“I was a typical user, on it once or twice a day,” she says. “After a certain point, I sort of resented how it felt like an obligation rather than fun.”