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by Mike Bloxham

A number of people outside the media industries have told me recently of the noticeable increase in the number of old friends from high school or college who have connected with them on Facebook and the like in recent times. These people are typically in the 40+ age group and — for the most part — are pleased to be enjoying the renewed contact with old acquaintances, even though many simultaneously express surprise at what they perceive to be a relatively sudden surge in new Friend requests.”Where have these people come from?” “Why are they contacting me now?” and “Are they new to Facebook?” — all these questions are typically part of the conversation.

A smaller number of people have also said similar things about Twitter.

So what’s going on here? Are more of us old folks getting actively engaged in the social networking thing? There’s no doubt that the Facebook user base is expanding rapidly — and apparently the fastest growth is occurring among those who are over 30.

Recently released stats from complete.com (stats based solely on U.S., browser-based use of the sites) show huge levels of use for Facebook in January, with around 68.5 million unique visitors delivering almost 1.2 billion unique visits (for the first time I believe, ranking the site above Myspace by 10 million unique visitors in the month). In a distant third comes Twitter, with just shy of 6 million unique visitors and just over 54 million unique visits. Complete acknowledge that since its stats don’t take into account use of widgets and third-party apps to access the sites, the likes of Twitter will be somewhat under-reported in terms of total use. Despite this fact, Twitter still managed to rise from 22 to 3 in the rankings.

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