Rob Jenkins: How us 'old folks' killed off Facebook

Rob Jenkins

Rob Jenkins

According to a recent story in the UK Guardian, Facebook's meteoric rise may finally have leveled off.

The near-ubiquitous social media site, the newspaper reports, faces heavy competition from sites like Twitter and Instagram. At some point, its fortunes may well begin to wane.

And for that, I'm afraid my generation may be personally responsible.

We didn't mean to kill off Facebook. Most of us joined the site with the best of intentions. I first set up my page about six years ago, when my son went off to college -- meaning that I had two away at school -- primarily so I could keep in touch with him and his sister.

Actually, I did it so I could know if they were alive. At ages 18 and 20, they never e-mailed and rarely called. Even when I called them -- that is, dialed their cell phones that I was paying for -- they usually didn't pick up, and they hardly ever returned my calls or responded to my messages. On a weekly basis, I had no way of knowing whether or not they were still upright.

Until Facebook came along. Imagine my joy when I discovered that all I had to do was create a page, "friend" my kids, and wait for them to accept my request. Which, eventually, they did.

Now I could go online anytime and see photographic evidence that they were still among the living, if a bunch of college kids at 4:00 in the morning can be described as "the living." I could "like" their posts and make comments. I was once again part of their lives.

And as long as I had a page, anyway, it did no harm to "friend" other people, too. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, maybe the odd in-law (of which I have several). Old college roommates. Long-lost friends from high school. Suddenly I could reconnect with people I hadn't seen in years, or see only at funerals, as well as keep up with my kids. What could be better?

But then a funny thing happened. Even as all my adult "friends" began posting on Facebook more and more, my kids began posting less. Even the two younger ones, who at one time couldn't wait to get their own pages, were suddenly infrequent Facebook visitors.

Finally, a few months ago, I asked my 15-year-old what was up.

"Oh," he said, "Facebook is completely uncool."

Uncool? Really? "And why is that?" I wanted to know.

"Because it's all old people on there now."

And there you have it. Facebook's growth has leveled off, and will no doubt soon begin to plummet, because it has lost its appeal for young people. We old people, with our sugar cookie recipes and Farmville invitations and political memes and pictures of our grandkids, have killed it off.

And somewhere, Mark Zuckerberg may be wondering if it's too late to go back to Harvard.

Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and author of Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility, available at Books for Less in Buford and on Amazon. E-mail Rob at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com or visit familymanthebook.com.