Something to ponder: More than half of all Americans age 12 and older are on Facebook, according to a new report. The study found that 51 percent of people in that range have accounts, up from 8 percent in 2008. Now consider for a moment if this number is higher or lower than you expected it to be.
I suspect your thoughts might be generational, because I know mine definitely were. When I saw that number, I actually assumed it was a lowball estimate. There are times when it feels like simply everyone is on Facebook, in the sort of all-encompassing, far-reaching, all-knowing way that few other platforms, networks and tools have achieved. To put it another way, I would be more surprised if I met someone who didn’t have a Facebook account than someone who didn’t have a cell phone. (There are ways around cell phones — landlines, e-mails, etc. — whereas Facebook has achieved a singular-seeming ubiquity.)
But I stopped and pondered for a moment. After all, my assumptions revolved around the people with whom I interact with the most — my peers, friends, family and immediate and intermediate circles. In other words, I didn’t consider the legions of people for whom Facebook has limited or no utility (senior citizens, people in extremely rural areas). When considering those demographic groups, and the likelihood that the 51 percent number is so heavily taken up by young people who are on it because everyone is on it and if they’re not, they’ll be left behind — basically, people who are part of the self-sustaining cycle of groupthink that helps make something popular because it’s already so popular, a very post hoc ergo propter hoc kind of social pressure — the 51 percent figure is deeply interesting and just the beginning.
Because yes, part of the 49 percent has to come from people who are in their teens and 20s and beyond who have simply decided against Facebook; people for whom it seems worthless, or people who have used it and decided to delete their accounts (insofar as you can actually delete your account). But a lot of it has to come from older demographics. Which means that the 51 percent number is only going to rise as Facebook-using middle-aged people become occasionally Facebook-browsing senior citizens, and the current ranks of children become Facebook-frequenting tweens and teens.
That is, unless something rises up and usurp’s Facebook’s place, in the way these things often go for technological and social advances that seem vital but are often forgotten when rendered obsolete by the Next Big Thing. In which case, the slow and steady numerical battle of users-versus-non-users begins anew.