Grandma 'friended' me: Facebook users getting older fast

Funny how only a few years ago you were hearing about this new-fangled Facebook thing and how it was taking college campuses by storm. Sorry, junior. Grandpa's taking over. According to interactive research and buzz-tracking agency iStrategy, the fastest growing segment of Facebook in the month of July was users who are 55+. (The highly curious can download a spreadsheet of the findings here). That's a stunning finding but it validates what I'd been hearing from a number of teens and college kids who had been "friended" not only by their parents, but sometimes by their own grandparents on Facebook.

Not surprisingly, iStrategy also found that growth rates of college and teenage users on Facebook has slowed down considerably. That's likely due to two factors. The saturation point is probably close at hand for those early adopter segments. And the hip factor has waned as Facebook has gone from novel to normal. Of course, college students and teens are still joining up but their growth is in the low single-digits, a far cry from the torrid mid-double digit growth rates of their elders. Some of the flux in younger users is also assigned to changes in school affiliations over summer months and a growing trend of Facebookers eschewing school affiliations on their profile pages.

The trend of an older set moving into Facebook is hardly new. Two years ago, after the service opened up to all users, a rush of hipster oldsters stampeded onto CEO Mark Zuckerberg's service and BusinessWeek.com questioned whether there would be enough to keep them around and interested. Apparently, there is and they're still coming.

Other notable insights from the iStrategy report, which used Facebook's own data to track the trends: the fastest growing city on Facebook in the past six months was Atlanta, with 142 percent growth, and Facebook's total user growth over the past month was 8 percent.

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