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'Necessary evil' Facebook a hard habit to break

Date

Asher Moses

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Australians are spending more and more time on Facebook even as we tire of its encroachment on our time and culture of self-absorption.

Australians are spending more and more time on Facebook even as we tire of its encroachment on our time and culture of self-absorption.

Facebook may be on the nose with the Australian public but it has become as much a "necessary evil" as TV, and half the population still uses it every month.

Research shows that even as we complain of Facebook "fatigue" we are spending on average more time on the site than a year ago, with three-quarters of users checking in daily.

The latest six-monthly Ipsos Mackay report has found Australians are beginning to turn away from Facebook, with an increasing number rejecting the culture of "narcissism and self-absorption" they say it promotes.

The in-depth qualitative research on about 95 participants aimed to capture the nation's mind and mood. It found people wanted to close their Facebook accounts because the service was "time-consuming and tiring" and there was a "general lack of civility".

But despite the complaints, Nielsen figures show that Facebook's unique audience in Australia has remained steady. In September last year about 11.48 million Australians visited Facebook, compared with 11.26 million in August this year. In between, the monthly unique audience dipped as low as 10.68 million, but the overall trend line is relatively flat.

The amount of time each Australian user spends on the site increased by 16 minutes a month to seven hours, 39 minutes and 17 seconds by August this year. While this was a year-on-year increase, in April Facebook's average time on site had shot up to eight hours, 29 minutes and 43 seconds, before dropping off.

Nielsen said its numbers included desktop, mobile and tablet visits to Facebook's website but not apps.

The author of the Ipsos report, researcher Laura Demasi, said just because people were checking in didn't mean they liked Facebook, which had become a "necessary evil".

"What we hear from people, particularly younger people, is that they feel like they have to [use Facebook] because it's like saying I don't like talking on the phone, so I'm going to unplug and throw my phone in the bin and have no phone," she said.

"If you want to have a life in the world of 2012 then you kind of have to be on Facebook. It's become the address book more than anything. There's just a sense of fatigue of how much time it takes up."

So much fatigue, in fact, that Demasi said in her focus groups people were talking about Facebook "up there next to the cost of petrol and electricity as things that are top of mind to them".

"What we find increasingly is in every report we do people are talking to us about Facebook, no matter what the topic is," she said.

Separate research Facebook commissioned from Nielsen earlier this year found 75 per cent of the site's Australian user base spent time on Facebook once or multiple times a day (the figure for TV viewing was 76 per cent).

"People have such ambivalence towards television, but they still sit in front of it every night," said Demasi.

"You still have the TV, you still watch it, but you may feel that its influence in your life, in your world, isn't a brilliant thing."

About 2.3 million Australians used Twitter in August, according to Nielsen, while about 1 million checked out Pinterest.

Average time spent on Twitter has grown from 11 minutes a month in September last year to 26 minutes in August, while time on Pinterest grew from 14 minutes to 25 minutes.

Facebook said it expected its raw user numbers to become less meaningful as "there are only so many internet users and we fully expect to reach a saturation point". But it said engagement with the site — people posting photos, likes and comments — had been growing.

"Our overall growth is still strong, but it's driven mostly by mobile rather than desktop use," Facebook said. "In some markets, such as the US, desktop use is slow or flattening. Mobile growth, meanwhile, is very strong."

Globally, Facebook claims to have 955 million monthly active users as of June 30, an increase of 29 per cent year on year, and 543 million mobile monthly active users, a 67 per cent increase compared with a year ago.

 

89 comments

  • I have three "active" accounts with Facebook - none of which I can actually access.

    Commenter
    kildred
    Date and time
    October 04, 2012, 12:24PM
    • Y just FB for privacy n y just tech firms?banking institutions, marketing firms, etc-all there-CHECK 'TRACKING THE TRACKERS'-Talk show done on TED by CEO of Mozilla-As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. TECHNOLOGIES DO HAVE GOOD AND BAD SIDES TO IT-Apple, Google, Amazon are pushing what IBM, Salesforce and all started with cloud computing.big brother with technology has been there for decades now-maybe should check on the Apple COMMERCIAL Ad of 1984 to IBM with regards to Big Brother(YOUTUBE)and then there's also 'The Surveillance Society: 1984 Came 25 Years Late' (YOUTUBE). Facebook has PRIVACY SETTINGS,LISTS LIKE EMAIL AND OTHERS-USE AND CREATE THEM.Facebook and other social networks and media are more than social media or networks.FACEBOOK as know is into ENTERTAINMENT through Spotify,Skype and more including 3rd party apps;PUBLISHING world including via MS Docs and 3rd party apps; MARKETING; FINANCE including real-time news updates including stocks; EDUCATIONAL and academic resources; HEALTH news and updates and apps and SO FORTH...now with Cue which is free, an individual can link to 1 or more accounts under different apps like Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn and so forth which are free though paid ones are like Salesforce, Evernote, Basecamp and so on [each app can use just 1 account so can't link to more than 1 Gmail or Facebook account] and then it does its search in chronological order according to latest comment made under that post so can have different pages or applications mixed but it will figure it out time-wise according to latest comment made under a post [and the search is not only for posts that comes via newsfeeds but also for messages, events and so forth]. there are others too like Kurrently though Cue's the best at the moment, doing well in US.

      Commenter
      rohitthomas1980
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 4:19PM
    • I tried to start a facebook account but you needed to put in your e-mail address and password to sign up.... Sounds like a bit of a scam to me (you need to be very wary on the internet these days)

      Commenter
      The-B-Pirate
      Location
      Adelaide
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 9:31PM
  • 'If you want to have a life in the world of 2012 then you kind of have to be on Facebook'.
    Umm...I would suggest going outside, getting some fresh air and talking to people face to face if you want to have a life. 'Speaking' to your 53934393 'friends' is not having a life and I find it incredible that people's social skills have been reduced to conversing with people using this.

    Commenter
    Ohmy
    Location
    Tamworth
    Date and time
    October 04, 2012, 12:24PM
    • ohmy, you should use the site as opposed to parroting what you've heard. Most users grew out of the whole '53934393 friends' thing a long time ago, 99% of the people I have added on facebook have 100-500 friends. This includes people from highschool and uni, people met on travels, friends I've drifted away from in recent years, and of course about a dozen closer friends I regularly communicate with.

      I regularly use facebook to arrange face to face activities, almost every day when I get home I quickly check who's online to see if anyone near me wants to play some basketball, or just hang out. The half dozen or so 'real-life' friends that insist on not having a facebook often complain that they miss out on invitations to events, which are usually sent out via facebook en mass.

      I stay in touch with those I'm close to, and rediscover old friends with it. I would suggest that perhaps it is you who is being anti-social.

      Commenter
      late1
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 1:34PM
    • What makes you think people who have Facebook (and I've just visited my own page) don't also go outside, get fresh air and also interact with people face to face? I really don't know where this meme came from where people who have FB are perpetually stuck inside, socially isolated and have no 'real' life.

      Commenter
      jools
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 2:26PM
    • Oh my..I guess this is how we behave on facebook. Now that facebook is here, we can all start going out and meeting each other, invite each other to parties and just generally socialise. What a noveI idea. I will sign up immediately!

      Commenter
      Ohmy
      Location
      Tamworth
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 4:36PM
    • No late1, it's you and your 100-500 friends that are being anti social. Your half a dozen or so real life friends have the right idea. Maybe you'd have more than half dozen friends if you logged off and got out more.

      Commenter
      Maximus
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 6:05PM
    • "The half dozen or so 'real-life' friends that insist on not having a facebook often complain that they miss out on invitations to events, which are usually sent out via facebook en mass." -- So, you choose not to invite them via any other traditional method? Some friend you are.

      Commenter
      Paul
      Date and time
      October 04, 2012, 9:20PM
  • I ticked more frequently because a year ago I didn't have facebook so yes I use it more now than I did a year ago, the poll doesn't accurately portray all people. I only signed up for facebook in june to keep in contact with someone and yes since then I've been on every day for maybe 5 minutes and that's about it. I wouldnt say I HAVE to look at it everyday but it's nice to see what everyone is saying. I can definitely see how people become addicted to it but that is also easy to stop (just don't go on the computer as much)

    Maybe think about changing the poll for people who have only just signed up as well. Because my most appropriate answer contributes to the fact that apparently we are spending more time on there when I've technically only just signed up

    Commenter
    SarahJ88
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    October 04, 2012, 12:57PM

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