Is Facebook Losing Its Cool? Some Teens Think So

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ROBERT GALBRAITH / REUTERS

Baret Steed is tired of Facebook. She’s had an account since she was 13, but isn’t a fan of the fact that the social network now includes not only her friends, but also her parents, aunts, and uncles. “It’s almost like they’re the only ones on there,” she says. “All your relatives are constantly commenting on your stuff. I appreciate the gesture and wanting to keep up with my life, but it’s kind of annoying.”

Steed, 15, is at an age where social media is high on her priority list. She spends about six hours a day on various social sites and apps, but an increasing amount of that time is being ceded to platforms like Instagram (which Facebook owns), Tumblr, and Twitter.

And she’s not alone. In an unscientific survey of about 40 of Steed’s classmates at Briarwood Christian High School in Birmingham, Ala., only eight of the students listed Facebook as their most-used social network. For eleven of them, it didn’t rank in the top three (Instagram was by far the most popular). Other, more formal surveys have found that Tumblr might actually be the teen social network of choice now. In fact, Facebook itself even acknowledged the challenge of keeping teens engaged in its annual 10-K report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February. In a list of the risk factors that could affect the company’s future success, Facebook stated:

“We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram. In the event that our users increasingly engage with other products and services, we may experience a decline in user engagement and our business could be harmed.”

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Steed and her teenage companions haven’t given up Facebook entirely, but the world’s biggest social network is now just one of an assortment of social apps they use on their smart phones instead of the nexus of their social media activity. “Twitter’s all statuses, Instagram’s all pictures,” says Hamp Briley, a 16-year-old student at Briarwood. “People like to do more specific things like that instead of being on just Facebook.”

It’s these more specialized apps, typically with a visual twist, that seem poised to hook even more teens in 2013. Snapchat, a photo messaging service that destroys sent images moments after they are received, is shuttling about 60 million pictures between phones per day, mostly from teenagers. Pheed, a Twitter-meets-Instagram-meets-YouTube hybrid social network that originally attracted creative types when it launched last fall, added a million new users in February, partially because teenagers started tweeting about how awesome it was. Now some app developers, like the creators of the photo app Albumatic, are even corralling teenagers into focus groups to find out what this fickle demographic might like next.

“There’s a change in the social media landscape,” says Pheed CEO O.D. Kobo. “No young people want to open up their timeline and read a novel. It’s not quick enough. The younger demographic today is much more [into] multimedia.”

Of course, Facebook isn’t just going to cede younger eyeballs to more visual competitors. The acquisition of Instagram, still a favorite among youngsters who don’t even know of Facebook’s involvement, is looking smarter by the day. That platform recently exceeded 100 million users. Meanwhile the company dutifully rolls out competitors to other apps that might infringe on their turf, like the Snapchat clone Facebook Poke. Thursday the company announced an overhaul of its News Feed to make photos and videos more prominent, which is a big selling point for teens.

“Facebook really wants to be in front of those teens so that when they do enter the working world, and they are spending money, they’re going to pick Facebook as one of their technology providers,” says Brian Blau, research director in consumer technologies at Gartner. 

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Overall, Facebook continues to grow globally, with the number of users now well past one billion and daily active users increasing 28% in 2012 to 618 million. “We are gratified that more than 1 billion people, including enormous numbers of young people, are using Facebook to connect and share,” a spokesman said in a statement. Still, a growing number of people—particularly younger users— are pledging to cut back time spent on the social network in 2013, according to a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The company declined to disclose whether usage among teenagers is increasing or decreasing overall.

What Facebook is creating today, a vast social web across the Internet and the world, is different from the private networks it offered teens in years past. The site’s goals are now more ambitious than serving up Wall posts and Honesty Boxes, but they also might be less relevant to people whose worlds don’t extend much further than the halls of their high schools. 

Other sites, like the microblogging site Tumblr, offer more opportunity for creative expression with less prying parental eyes. “The reason we like it so much is because not everyone has one,” Steed says of Tumblr, which is very popular among girls at her high school. “You can almost disguise yourself. Not everyone’s on there, not everyone’s stalking you.” Snapchat, meanwhile, offers spontaneity and instant gratification, though one student said it’s more of a game than a legitimate Facebook alternative.

The half dozen teens interviewed for this story viewed Facebook as a utility, good for organizing study sessions through groups or formally documenting a big event like the Homecoming dance with a photo album. Such uses don’t necessitate constantly refreshing your News Feed, which could become a problem for a company whose business model depends on users logging lots of hours and seeing lots of ads.

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The good news for Facebook, though, is that a utility is something to which people regularly return. The teens all agreed that once they entered their 20s, their Facebook usage would likely increase. “Facebook right now is boring because you see everyone at school, but after you get to college you want to know what everyone’s up to and what they’re doing,” Briley says. “Us in high school might be saying it’s kind of dying. But we’ll start using it more once people we know go to different parts of life.”

332 comments
ArnaudRavel
ArnaudRavel

Patou, Guigui, et Ludo .... prêts pour défoncer Facebook ??? :-)

mrmetropolitan
mrmetropolitan

I will be glad to see all of these (a)social network websites disappear.  People spend far too much time on these sites at the expense of their own lives.  I have seen too many people become obsessed with these sites, oftentimes showing signs of serious addiction.  http://www.facebookdetox.com

jskdv74
jskdv74

.@BizNash who knows, this might create additional appeal, like no-children resorts or airlines

декабрьвосемнадцать
декабрьвосемнадцать

wow! the teens surely are spending more time on social networking sites rather than spending time studying.  No wonder they cannot compete knowledge and skills wise to other industrialized nations' teens.  And people blame teachers instead of blaming parents to monitor their children's study habits when at home.

I just hope Facebook will eventually come to extinction.  Students nowadays are so addicted to the Social Networking Sites aside from text.  What kind of citizens will this country produce if the teens have so many distractions, which they spend more time to than studying for a midterm, finals or even a short quiz.




mmbc
mmbc

@jn_wood this was a really good article, thank you!

LILDAWG
LILDAWG

%s %s is the new, cooler younger brother

TheResPublica
TheResPublica

Facebook has been ruined since they opened it up to everyone - confirmed university email addresses were originally the only way... while I get from a business standpoint why it makes sense, it has still been downhill ever since. 

BAndersen
BAndersen

Lost its cool a long time ago.. too many Trolls.. Too many pictures of the same event .. Too many Idiots living a very public life.. Absolute and complete invasion of privacy

leahs
leahs

I think it just comes down to who's tech-savvy. Teenagers and young adults have grown up with social networking, and will always be on top of the 'latest trend'. 

ToddWest
ToddWest

Facebook lost it's cool years ago.....about all you have is a good wall feed, groups are sorely lacking forum abilities, blogging is nonexistent unless you consider the wall thing a blog (it's not) and you cannot build a real consensus of active people #1 you can't reach out to outside people easiest enough (try it, you will be blocked and finally suspended) and the friends limits are defeating......Zuck knows this, he is rich though and his young hipsters either have not a clue or still believe themselves too cool for a fool.  The latest news feed as sales pitch is crap too....kinda looks like one massive spook social experiment, which some say that is all it was to begin with......

jhodson79
jhodson79

%s %s RT %s: Is Facebook Losing Its Cool? Some Teens Think So - TIME - %sh3N

VinieO
VinieO

@Kvaati I don't think so seeing they are getting married and having babies every day unlike us here being called ugly!

RonGamblePR
RonGamblePR

@Edward_S_Shei I saw this story a few days ago on the news. I think it's all about getting away from parents, but for what reason.

Len_Wilson
Len_Wilson

@lensweet i posted the same question about FB on my FB wall this week. Got more responses than any other post. All agreeing.

elynnsteins
elynnsteins

%s Very interesting! Definitely keep in mind to see what teens are turning to. Something else I noted, "6 hours a day!" %s

grailpuffin
grailpuffin

Hey you kids! Get off my Facebook lawn and leave it for us old people! 

blayklay
blayklay

actually, i will let out a secret. what is cool becomes weird, and what is weird becomes cool. at this point, facebook has been cool for a while, and still is with some people, but because of its ubiquitousness, which causes it to be used by people of all ages, it is losing some of its hip and becoming weird. as soon as it reaches a certain plateau of weirdness, it will begin to become cool again in a sea change. now, like i said, the sea change is from cool to weird. each is a gradual shifting, and never will facebook be entirely cool or entirely weird, but the phenomenon persists.

RichendaG
RichendaG

@LILDAWG and yet the truth is thats the only social network I can find Mikey on...

kmmokai
kmmokai

@lindsaygoldwert Yeah, even structure\/arguments are the same. Would have been different if they heavily cited the Verge throughout.

anyadowning
anyadowning

@Plantsforlife I have seen this in my own circle. Interesting to see the trend take a different direction. Have a great Tuesday!

Kvaati
Kvaati

@VinieO NKT never ever use babies and marriage in the same sentence please...its true though we can't compare at all.

VinieO
VinieO

@Kvaati lollllll....nikiiiii lol! Babies and marriage what happened? Can I vuta a Mkeka? Uhondo nayo? Lollll ok now I am sounding shady ...

RichendaG
RichendaG

@LILDAWG Ironically, YAMMER is my fav social network :) Invite only and everyone on there is intelligent and funny.

Kvaati
Kvaati

@VinieO Thats life and it starts when you marry someone who..... Let me go and pray

VinieO
VinieO

@Kvaati they built their empire together from rags to riches...and boy oh boy, don't they have riches...wa? Residence with two lifts inside

Kvaati
Kvaati

@VinieO 27 years and that happens?? Damn thats painful and the kids woi .... Don't even say anything

VinieO
VinieO

@Kvaati the inside story behind the scene about those two is even worse....can't even say on this public forum..indeed sad.

Kvaati
Kvaati

@VinieO No i read that Tuju story and i realised that shit is real very REAL .... Saddest story i ever came across