Social Media's Growing Pains

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Social Media

Millions of Americans use social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to keep other people informed about what they're doing from hour to hour, and even from minute to minute.  But those sites have not been as punctual in updating people about changes in their own status.

A growing number of research reports are starting to reveal that, like a profile page of a perky female high school cheerleader that actually belongs to a balding middle-aged man, social media sites are not as popular or as attractive as they appear to be.

For example, in March 2010, DailyFinance.com1 reported that the internal tracking system at MySpace was showing the number of active users on the social networking site to be way out of line with the 100 million users that MySpace likes to claim. 

Specifically, for the month ending in mid-February, MySpace had a mere 18 million individual visitors.  That wasn't just a fluke:  In the 30 days before that, the number of visitors was only 6 percent higher.  News Corp., the parent of MySpace, admitted that the slowing advertising traffic on MySpace was going to cost the company $100 million. 

Part of the reason that MySpace is hurting is because many people moved over to Facebook.  Facebook, however, has other problems that do not bode well for its future.  According to ReadWriteWeb,2 Facebook's population is rapidly aging.  It started as a service for college students but, by 2008, the average user's age had already risen to 26.  In early 2010, it's up to 33 and climbing.  Those older users are not as attractive to advertisers.

According to Robert X. Cringely of InfoWorld, demography is not the most worrisome problem for Facebook.3  Much bigger threats come in the form of spam and scams.  For example, a fake application recently appeared on the site that sent false messages to everyone on a user's page.  Schemes like this, as well as countless instances of spam, are typically aimed at stealing users' identities. 

According to a report on Cloudmark, Facebook users are also besieged by a great deal of "dating spam," which attempts to lure people into fake relationships.  There are also numerous fake profile pages aimed at identity theft and some spam even redirects users to toxic Web sites that host malware. 

The classic e-mail spam come-ons, which lure people into giving out their banking information with promises of millions from foreign nations, have now begun to appear on Facebook...

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