Digitally present

There are more than a dozen major social networks available to an internet user today but Facebook is the undisputed leader with approximately 750 million users out of a global population of more than six billion people. These numbers show that the majority of the world lacks a Facebook presence and for those in the United States some consider an digital presence crucial to 21st century living. Innovation diffusion follows five phases of adoption outlined by Everett Rogers: innovators (2.5%), early adopters (12.5%), early majority (35%), late majority (35%), and laggards (15%). Facebook adoption in the U.S. tracked by the website Inside Facebook us approximately 150 million users out of a total population of more than 311 million, or just under 50% of the U.S. population is on Facebook.

Inside Facebook’s research indicates a leveling of users when Facebook reaches 50% adoption in a given country. Slate explains this phenomenon:

Because there’s no one left to go after. As Inside Facebook’s Eric Eldon points out, Facebook’s growth always stalls when it hits 50 percent market penetration within a country. Facebook is now experiencing something unprecedented in the short history of social networking—it has captured every plausible user in several countries, and the only people who are left are folks without Internet access, people who do have access but don’t spend a lot of leisure time online, and the few lonely die-hards who swear they’ll never join the site… [emphasis added]

Since research indicates that only 50% of people will join the largest social network, individuals who lack an online presence is as common as those who have one.  A blog post on The New York Times website looked suspiciously on those without an online presence. The author writes “I’ve heard from multiple friends and colleagues that not being able to find anything on the Web about a potential employee, babysitter or romantic connection could be considered borderline suspicious.”

The lack of information is not suspicious, smart and concerned individuals (including myself) keep their Facebook privacy settings limited to friends only and choose to present a twitter feed and personal website consisting of a body of professional work to the world in place of favorite movies and “likes.”

A digital presence is “essential” to certain aspects of some peoples lives. For reporters it is inevitable that bylines will be published on an organizations site, and a personal website is beneficial to show potential employers and maintain a record of your work.  But given the very public nature of a publications website, locking down a Facebook profile or other social network profile makes sense, as it does for everyone to ensure that employers, clients, and other professional contacts do not engage too closely with your personal life and keep business and pleasure separate. And when half the population stays away there is no reason to fear anyone who does not have a public online persona.

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