June 7, 2018
Being the most popular social media platform in the world comes with a lot of baggage. But even after data breaches, Russian trolls, and Congressional hearings, Facebook remains the ruler of the social media kingdom.
However, Facebook's days could be numbered, as one demographic that is crucial to continued success has displayed a surprising lack of interest in this decade-old platform – young people. And it's only getting worse.
According to a recent study from Pew Research Center, only 51 percent of teens age 13 to 17 use Facebook. For a platform boasting 2 billion monthly users, that's a little embarrassing. Particularly when 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 45 percent say they're online “almost constantly.”
To make matters even worse, the stats from YouTube (85 percent), Instagram (72 percent), and SnapChat (69 percent) have effectively put Facebook in fourth place among the younger generation.
Facebook is doing everything it can to reestablish its once-powerful youthful draw. From apologetic commercials to goofy camera filters, the social media company is grasping at straws to stay relevant with younger demographics. Unfortunately, there are more than enough reasons for young people to avoid Facebook altogether.
A Single Identity
Facebook has admittedly had its fair share of identity theft concerns. Whether it's lonely web surfers catfishing other users or Russian trolls inciting political battles of wit, the troubled social media platform has done everything it can to make sure your identity is verifiable and legitimate. And that's exactly what's driving teens away.
By forcing users into a single identity, Facebook has made it difficult, if not impossible, to keep multiple facets of one's life separate. Want to have one account for your professional life and one account for your personal life? Well, that's just too bad, as Facebook is determined to make it a one person, one account kind of world.
“Young people dislike the way Facebook ties them into a fixed self. Facebook insists on real names and links different areas of a person’s life, carrying over from school to university to work,” wrote Amy Lancaster of the Journalism and Digital Communications school at the University of Central Lancashire in a study of teen experience on social media.
“This arguably restricts the freedom to explore new identities – one of the key benefits of the web. The desire for escapable transience over damning permanence has driven Snapchat’s success, precisely because it’s a messaging app that allows users to capture videos and pictures that are quickly removed from the service.”
This is why young people hate Facebook. Because, at an age in which figuring out who you are is a huge part of growing up, Facebook doesn't let them explore their own personalities. It's not the only part though.
The Parent Problem
Sure, they love you, but parents ruin everything. Early bed times were the bane of your childhood, and being forced to eat your broccoli was easily one of the most unpleasant experiences of your entire life. But, Facebook originally grew in popularity because it provided teens and young people with a digital playground free from prying parental eyes. That, unfortunately, is no longer the case.
Older users have flocked to Facebook in recent years, which, in so many words, is pretty uncool. Not only has the influx of parents prevented younger users from ever signing on, it's also made millennial users leave the platform in droves, with nearly another million expected to leave in 2018.
It's not just an age thing either. Whether it's because of the parental support or the countless baby pictures, parents are specifically drawn to Facebook in comparatively staggering numbers.
As infamously slow adopters in technology, it was only a matter of time before parents got on the Facebook bandwagon, which made the youthful exodus all the more predictable.
Instagram: Defeated From Within
Snapchat is clearly the social media giant-slayer when it comes to young people. Not only do more young people use the app than any other social media platform, but Snapchat is also used most often by young people. But, the tiny yellow ghost isn't the only one responsible for Facebook's waning numbers.
Despite being owned by the social media giant, Instagram has played a significant role in young people abandoning Facebook. Its basic layout, easy-to-use interface, and focus on photos rather than statuses and comments make it the perfect alternative for young people sick of the cluttered, troll-filled wasteland of Facebook. And, as time goes on, more and more users are going to follow suit.
“I can confidently say that most of the people who’ll eventually use Instagram don’t use Instagram now,” said Kevin Systrom, founder and chief executive of Instagram to the New York Times in 2017.
The Desperation of Facebook
As any teen will tell you, trying to be cool is inherently uncool. While Facebook enjoyed years of unmitigated popularity among younger demographics, its graceless fall from glory has made it harder than ever to attract younger users.
This couldn't be more apparent than in Facebook's newest advertising campaign, a commercial that, much like the famous Domino's campaign, apologizes for how terrible the platform has become in recent years and vows to do better in the future.
While these promises (empty or not) may make older, experienced users feel a bit better about the potential for a “return to roots,” it hardly attracts new users. In fact, it's probably doing quite the opposite, as young potential users would likely run for the hills rather than use a platform that publicly advertises the “spam, clickbait, fake news, and data misuse” running rampant on the platform.
The reality is that Facebook, much like Mark Zuckerberg, is no longer the hip, young thing it used to be. Between parents, trolls, data misuse, and identity security concerns, the social media platform once known for its youthful audience has engineered itself out of teen relevance and into the hands of the older generations.
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