Posted February 20, 2009 6:41 am by with 12 comments

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Facebook has had quite a week. If it is true that there is no such thing as bad publicity then this week has been a social-media-collagewindfall for the social networking giant. I have even read some conspiracy theorists who believe that the whole terms of service ‘incident’ was intended. I’m not sure I can go there but to be honest it does make some sense. The amount of new traffic and new visitors compared to those who may have de-Facebooked themselves is probably significant. Many fence sitters may have gotten curious enough to finally check it out while those who left had grown weary of it in the first place. It’s the classic case of so many theories and so little time.

It appears as if the Facebook publicity train has run out of steam, though. I say that because today’s WSJ ran a story of people who have decided that giving up Facebook for Lent is their big sacrifice. I realize that may sound a bit absurd thus my saying that this train may have run out of steam. It does, however, give some insight into just how deeply embedded social media can get in anyone’s life and makes it so attractive to marketers of just about anything.

The article talks about adults taking this journey not just the younger set that have grown up with Facebook. The amount of uncertainty, hand wringing and preparation of excuses in case of slips is both amusing and disturbing at the same time. The Pew Research Institute places the daily usage for 18-24 year olds of social media like Facebook and MySpace at 50%. That’s a strong number from any perspective but marketers want a piece of that audience for sure. Only 13% of the rest of Internet users have the same habit but they buy stuff too, right? One of those 13% is a 39 year-old electrician who says he updates his Facebook status about 20 times a day. I hope he doesn’t cross any wires in the process.

The most telling account may have been given by a college student and her experience with walking away from her social media habit (in this case Facebook) for 40 days.

College students who have abstained from Facebook for Lent in recent years say it was brutal, but valuable. Whitley Leiss, now a junior at Texas Christian University, slipped up only once, on her birthday, when she was desperate to see the well-wishes posted for her. She asked a roommate to log into her account and read them aloud while she averted her eyes from the screen. When Lent ended, she logged on to find dozens of messages waiting and strangely little desire to answer them.

“I saw all that I had missed,” Ms. Leiss said. “And I realized I hadn’t missed anything.” She also learned, she says, who her true friends were — those who would take the radically retro step of calling or emailing to stay in touch.

Since the Marketing Pilgrim crowd rates very high on the social media usage scale it begs the question “If you chose to step away from social media for 40 days what impact would it have on your life? Could you or would you even attempt to do it? If you do we’ll make sure to e-mail you while you’re away.

  • It is interesting when you say “no such thing as bad publicity” – I recall a lorry firm who made the front page of a local newspaper because of potential road damage taking the route they travelled. The photograph had a great image of the lorry firms phone number and they got more business through it! It would have cost them a fortune to place a Front Page advert the conventional way. (I should point out that I am not suggesting it was intentional)

    Paul Foreman’s last blog post..Adam Sicinski releases MasterMind Matrix

  • Linda Finkle

    This is very silly. Socal Media, like Facebook, is simply a part of our lives now, like cellphones and answering machines (and chocolate and Starbucks). Will there be people who “abstain” for periods of time? Of course! But these things are here to stay because many, many people want and enjoy them. And always will.

  • More than abstaining, it is a question of balance. Social Networks are here to help us to maintain/create contacts in real life, not for their own sake.

    Guillaume’s last blog post..Budget allocation favors online advertising over traditional

  • I gave up Facebook for Lent two years ago, when I was using it constantly because I had had it for about a year and a half at that point. As a college student, it was not only a valuable means of communication for me, it was also a huge procrastinating tool. After I first got it, I had tried to limit myself to 30 minutes on it a day, but that failed miserably. I knew it was a time waster, but I couldn’t help it. So I knew that giving it up for Lent would be the only way to stay off it. I found that I got a LOT more done without it, and I strangely didn’t even miss it that much. When I got it back, I spent far less time on it than I had before. But I was still glad to have it back!

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  • Ian M

    I only check Facebook every month or so. Definitely works better for me that way 🙂

  • I believe social media should give Liberal media,facebook should not be social type country who use “army “to control there wish of control that lies beneath his feed,I love facebook so far until it try to put his hands choke my necks from the freedom of being a free people

  • I think these days if you get anyone to talk about anything it is good. bad buzz or good buzz at least you got people talking about your product during very quiet times.

  • I think people need to look at Twitteraholics before Facebook users as addicts.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Canonical Tag From Google: So Simple and Smart

  • its like “don’t watch tv for a month” omg, can’t do this

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  • I resisted as long as I could but due to friends/family pressure I gave in and opened a facebook account.
    After having my page for just over a week I can certainly see why some find it very addictive.

    Personally however I am already a little bored with the whole thing. Sure, I seemed to lose 6 hours of my day the first few days but very quickly I was resenting the time it took to reply to all my messages, annoyed by the many requests and confused as to why total strangers who just happened to have a mutual friend in common wanted to be my friend.

    My first choice will always be to catch up with real friends in the flesh – but I’m sure the voyeur in me will still check out my page now and then to see what all these people I hardly know are up to … or maybe not

  • Perfect money guy give me back my money!!!!! You fraudster and scammer!!! I reported your web site to SEC and Interpol. Interpol already knows about your operation and they have an open case against your scamming group. they traced you back to Moscow. Your fake Swiss shell corporation cannot protect you!!

    We will get our money back and you will be behind bars.