Facebook attracting more users with gray hair, wrinkles

Older users flood the social networking site, apparently driving out the youngsters

Facebook is growing in popularity and its users are growing long in the tooth, according to a study released this week.

A report released by iStrategyLabs shows that while the number of Facebook's U.S. high school and college-age users declined over the past six months, its popularity among the 55-and-older crowd is booming. In fact, the number of 55-and-older Facebook users showed staggering growth -- 513.7% -- in the last six months, the digital consulting firm said.

This isn't a new phenomenon for Facebook. In March, Hitwise Pty. reported that the social network's audience of people over the ripe old age of 35 increased by 23% in February compared with the same month a year earlier. While Facebook was first launched to serve college students, over the past year or so the network has expanded to include many middle-aged folks.

While social networking sites were thought to be the domain of teenagers wanting to talk about school dances and their latest favorite band, it now looks like a quickly growing number of people on Facebook are closer to receiving their first copy of the AARP magazine than they are to taking their first college class.

The iStrategyLabs report also shows a 190.2% growth in the 35-to-54-year-old category.

Facebook isn't the only social network attracting older users.

A ComScore Inc. report released in April showed that people aged 45 to 54 are 36% more likely than their counterparts in any other age group to use the Twitter microblogging site. That category is the biggest user of Twitter, followed by the slice of the population made up of people aged 25 to 34, who are 30% more likely than people in other age groups to Tweet out updates about their life and work.

And the news isn't just about older users joining social networking sites. It's also about how the younger users are reacting to the influx of people old enough to be their parents.

The iStrategyLabs report notes that students are apparently fleeing Facebook. The report shows that Facebook has 16.5% fewer high school students and 21.7% fewer college students than it did six months ago.

"There have been rumors that these younger user groups are being alienated by their parents joining the service, and this data seems to prove it," said iStrategyLabs CEO Peter Corbett in a blog post.

Overall, Facebook showed strong growth over the last six months, with the number of U.S.-based users up 70.8%. According to iStrategyLabs, 54.6% of the social networking site's users are female.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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