No, Facebook Is Not Dead Among Tweens And Teens

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“What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it”

“…the young are moving on to cooler things”

Daniel Miller, Professor of Material Culture at University College London

People are saying that Facebook is dead among the young. Since the young will soon be the next adults, some even conclude that Facebook itself will also be dead – sooner or later. (A lot of this speculation started with this study on UK teenagers 16-18 years old.)

People relish the idea of the fall of the giant, a winner. But that doesn’t mean that fantasy becomes reality; Facebook is not yet dead, even to tweens and teens today.

I’ve surveyed tweens and teens about how they use Facebook and how their friends do:

–       None are embarrassed to be associated with Facebook.

–       It is not the coolest thing. The coolest things right now are Snapchat, Instagram, Vine. Twitter has never been cool. (But being cool comes and goes and is a different issue than what you use.)

–       They don’t use Facebook to communicate with their closest friends when a quick answer is needed. They do use text (SMS) and chat (WhatsApp, SnapChat). They never think of making phone calls — calling is really uncool! More important, it is not functional. You call your parents, not your friends…

–       They still use Facebook a few times a day! The young are smart; the interesting discovery is that they use each tool for its best feature. Sometimes that feature is making jokes or sharing selfies or engaging in activities; sometimes it’s about communicating and organizing themselves. But they don’t use one thing for every purpose.

And they do use Facebook. What’s relevant is that they are using Facebook as a back up service for less important activities, so they are checking several times a day but to accomplish activities like:

–       To chat for a long time. These chats can last hours, just like the never-ending phone conversations my generation used to have. I remember my mother reproaching me to be responsible for the expensive phone bill every month.

–       To stay up to date by following trending pages. An example: some very popular Facebook pages are based on Vine (which is owned by Twitter!). One is called “Best Vines” and has 3.6M fans; another one is called The Best of Vine and has 1M fans.

–       To stay in touch with friends that do not belong to their intimate circle. They share the important events of their life, their travels, post pictures, and comments, share funny things.

–       To stay in touch with the family without having to actually spend time with them.

–       Facebook is popular across generations, so tweens can also connect with distant family members in older generations.

–       To stay in communication with the groups they belong to at school and for extra-curricular activities.

The people who say that the teens are leaving Facebook because their parents are on it are wrong. Do you really believe that kids are not smart enough to show the parents only what they want to show them? Come on, they were born with digital media.

The people who say that the number of ads and videos is bothering the young are wrong too. Digital kids can tune out anything (including their parents!), but particularly advertising and media. They just focus on what interest them and “delete” the ads from their sight and consciousness. That does raise issues for Facebook’s business model, but that is a topic for another day.

Facebook is not the coolest platform for tweens and teens anymore. Facebook is a platform that tweens and teens cannot afford to ignore. They would miss out on so many things that they would become uncool.

Facebook is the cross-generational social platform. Facebook has become a useful, untrendy tool that is now a part of everyday life. It shows Mark Zuckerberg’s brilliance: he has succeeded in transforming a cool, and very innovative, social media networking platform into something that is an unquestionable fixture of the lives of all generations. The “death of Facebook” pronouncements are more than premature; they’re just wrong.

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