I can remember visiting my aunt’s or grandmother’s house afterschool to find them watching shows like General Hospital or All My Children. It began with them scheduling the recording through a VHS and at the turn of the century it shifted towards the use of a DVR. Overtime however, I began to see them watching these soap operas less and less. And as they watched their soaps less and less, so did the rest of the world. Something had changed. Yes, more women were leaving home for the workforce, yes, there was this new craze on television called reality TV that also had an impact in the decline of soap operas but these were simply partners in crime to the true killer. The guilty party goes by the name of Facebook.
When Facebook first launched it was positioned as a social network for students. To enforce this, anyone who wanted to use Facebook needed a university email or they could not access the site. This lasted a few years until Facebook went mainstream and opened up to the masses. You see, as the world turns, businesses need to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves and this is exactly what Facebook did. As a result, their decision to open their network to cities and towns around the world changed the way people interacted, young and old alike. This move has been crucial to their success as Facebook is now the largest social network with over 800 million users.
There still tends to be a belief however, that Facebook is a site made up of the young and restless. When in fact, more grandmothers and mothers are adding their children and grandkids to Facebook everyday. Recent studies show that the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women over the age of 55. That’s right; Facebook is no longer just a site for the kids to talk to one another and plan weekend activities. Supporting this is the fact that Facebook has recently become the number one site for gaming online. To top it all off, studies show that the average user playing Farmville or other games on Facebook are 43-year-old women.
So why are the soaps dying? Well, if the key demographic for soap operas is a woman above the age of 40 these numbers give us a brief insight into where they’ve shifted their attention. They are spending more time on Facebook looking at their friend’s photos and playing games than they are watching soaps. I mean, why would you watch a fake drama on television when you can watch a real one unravel on your computer? It’s kind of like voyeurism to some degree.
For many, Facebook has become the new soap opera. Whether you’re watching old friends live their lives hundreds of miles away or watching your own young ones grow up. The same story lines that you could have found in a soap opera plus interaction can be found in the lives of the people within your network. You’re able to watch people get married, catch up with their lives, and see their children grow up. All of these things that we’re once solely attributed to the likes of General Hospital and All My Children are no more.
At the end of it all, the perception of reality is what made soap operas compelling and successful. They allowed the viewers to connect with their cast on a daily basis and form make-believe relationships and connections. Today however, the soap opera is dying. What was once Bold and Beautiful is now dull and dreary in comparison to true social interaction. After 50 plus years it would be an understatement to say that the soap operas had a good run.
Let’s see if Facebook has the ability to keep on with it’s dominance.