Teens Tire of Facebook — but Not Enough to Log Off

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ROBERT GALBRAITH / REUTERS

Has Facebook lost its cool? That’s a question TIME posed earlier this year to dozens of teenagers, who mostly insisted that newer social networks like Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter were more engaging, even if (and partially because) everyone they knew in real life wasn’t on them. Now, a new study by the Pew Research Center has confirmed that teens are growing a bit weary of the world’s largest social network.

The study, part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, found that teens on Facebook are feeling stressed by “drama,” one of the great burdens of adolescent life. The social confrontations found in high school hallways are now playing out online too. “I think Facebook can be fun, but also it’s drama central,” a 14-year-old female interviewed for the study said. “On Facebook, people imply things and say things, even just by a Like, that they wouldn’t say in real life.”

Parents, now omnipresent on Facebook, are also a buzzkill. About 70% of teens are Facebook friends with their parents, according to the study — but that doesn’t mean they’re all happy about it. “It sucks … because then they start asking me questions like why are you doing this, why are you doing that,” a 17-year-old male said. “If I don’t get privacy at home, at least, I think, I should get privacy on a social network.”

(MORE: A Year Later, Instagram Hasn’t Made a Dime. Was It Worth $1 Billion?)

Teens have become acutely aware that anything they post online might be analyzed by parents, friends or colleges; 57% of them have chosen not to post something because they thought it might reflect badly on them in the future, the study found. About one-fourth of teens go a step further and use a fake name, age or location to protect their privacy online, even though the use of fake names violates Facebook’s terms of use. “We heard a lot of kids talking about the burden of the space, the drama associated with the space,” says Mary Madden, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. “Kids very much expressed a sense that they were being watched.”

Despite complaints, Facebook remains a prerequisite for having an online social life. The number of teens using the site actually increased last year, from 93% in 2011 to 94% in 2012. However, teens are picking up newer social networks as supplements to Facebook; 26% of teens used Twitter in 2012, compared with 11% the year before. Instagram (owned by Facebook) was the third most popular network, with 11% of teens using the photo-sharing site. These competing sites inevitably eat into the time users can spend on Facebook — the company admitted as much in its annual 10-K report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February. Other networks, particularly Instagram, allow teens more opportunities for creative expression with less of the social stresses of Facebook, Madden says.

There’s also some good news for Facebook in the report. Teens today are much more likely to post their photo, their hometown, their e-mail address and even their cell-phone number online than they were in 2006, when MySpace was the social network of choice. They also care less than adults what companies like Facebook do with all this information. Only 9% of teens are very concerned that advertisers might access the information they share through social media without their knowledge, while 22% aren’t concerned at all. Meanwhile 81% of parents are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about what advertisers can learn about their children’s online activities.

(MORE: Is Facebook Losing Its Cool? Some Teens Think So)

Perhaps Facebook’s core proposition — that the company will offer you a free networking tool if you allow it to share and monetize your personal data — will be more acceptable to the younger generation than it has been to adults critical of the company’s privacy policies. But it’s also possible that many teens just haven’t thought about the implications of their data being bartered across the Internet. “Young people are very accustomed to receiving free services that are built upon a structure of selling access to their data, but I don’t think you can necessarily say that people are aware of that and O.K. with it,” Madden says.

The bulk of the surveys done for the Pew study was completed in September, and the social-media landscape has already shifted dramatically since then. Instagram has racked up more than 100 million total users. Snapchat, a photo-messaging app popular with teens, has exploded in popularity, now sending 150 million messages per day. And Tumblr, which boasts a youthful demographic, was just purchased by Yahoo. So far Facebook has warded off (or bought out) all competitors, but its tight grip on the youngest demographic is weakening.

“Teenagers are notoriously fickle with their technology use,” Madden says. “When you look at teenagers’ sentiments … it is for them no longer a new, exciting platform. There is definitely competition.”

16 comments
mrbomb13
mrbomb13

"The number of teens using the site actually increased last year, from 93% in 2011 to 94% in 2012." With that being said, how can the author claim in his title that teens are 'tiring' of Facebook? Seems contradictory.

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

A Message to the Sheep:

So the whole world ran to this facebook as if it was the cure for all that was wrong with the world's ills. 

What? You are not on facebook? What is wrong with you... EVERYBODY is on it. 

So the sheep post all their intimate photos and details of all their relationships. They have received the mark of acceptability because they have found facebook! 

Websites even ask you log in with your facebook account...what..no facebook? How are you surviving?  Now they discover that facebook OWNS your information FOR LIFE... They even admit that you "cannot" cancel your account. Amazing


RichieDeyro
RichieDeyro

Here in Philippines, Facebook will charge u if u want to send a message to a person that is not in ur friends list.Talking about making money!

Kurlis
Kurlis

No one cares if you don't like advertising.

Online advertising works just like television commercials work.  Advertising works and businesses are willing to pay for it.

Facebook has become an indispensable tool that allows people to socialize easily with large numbers of people - all of their friends.   If Facebook didn't exist, it would need to be invented.

I think its a gold mine. Sure, other social networking platforms may be popular, but they don't do what Facebook does.  Not yet.

Facebook had better work hard to maintain its competitive advantage.  

yellowseal
yellowseal

So far it hasn't had to work hard - most changes have been disliked by the users, it's a very slow and unintuitive interface, it deliberately obfuscates what it can and can't do with your data, it has 0 customer support, and yet it dominates the market because it's competition was Myspace.  Hopefully in the future we'll think of it about like we think about an NBA champion of the 1950s - not even worth the title "dominant", just lucky enough to only have to face off against a small number of other teams, all of whom were also stocked with 1950s players....

AshMessenger
AshMessenger

Fun and/or pain for the feeble-minded.  

Daleos
Daleos like.author.displayName 1 Like

Facebook is a one trick pony. Whilst it was easily the best at that trick, the more it added features and the more it tried to please their stock holders, the more watered down it became. Now it's just another ad platform trying to brainwash us all into buying something. It's the signal to noise ratio that has put me right off the service. It once used to be a site about 'friends'. Now you have to do all sorts of contortions to keep it that way. There's other things like constantly reverting to 'Top Stories' on me when I'm actually more interested in what my lesser spammy friends are up to. The more 'clever' it got, the less it found the stuff I wanted to read/comment on.


Basically, I've stopped fighting the spam by logging in far less. It's become too much of a chore. I've bypassed Google Plus and now use Google Hangouts for chat. A lot more personal, a lot less noise and no ads in sight.

rickfman
rickfman like.author.displayName 1 Like

The challenge that Facebook and other social apps confront is the fact that their business model is based on a fallacy; that people using a utility application will somehow respond to advertisements and open their wallets. It's like the old-style telephone networks trying to 'monetize' their relationships with subscribers by dropping ads into your conversations...it's intrusive, annoying, and, most importantly, ineffective. In the interest of keeping this utility slice free for subscribers, Facebook and its ilk contort themselves into pretzel logic to convince themselves and Wall Street that there's a real business model here.

The winner in this space will be a successor to Facebook that does two simple things..

- take privacy seriously, and honor the customer relationship by not changing the rules constantly, and

- charge a small subscription fee and allow users to pay for this service if they value it, rather than spinning these wacky and hallucinatory 'monetization' schemes, which are really just a mechanism for fooling subscribers into believing they're getting something for nothing. It amazes me that investors, analysts, and venture capitalists are impressed by the 'billions and billions' of users...if McDonalds gave away meals for free, and said theyd make their money by selling advertising on their burger wrappers, they'd have trillions and zillions of customers!...just no business model...

JohnSmyth
JohnSmyth

@rickfman I agree with you regarding online advertising, since I cannot think of a time when I have clicked on an ad while on on Google. Perhaps I have once or twice, but only on very rare occasions. Of course, this is only anecdotal data, but I wonder how many other people actually click on ads. Google has built a business around ads and I assume that advertisers would not advertise on Google if it was not effective, so there must be something to this business model - but it escapes me. 

BeezerMoolji
BeezerMoolji

I agree, as I use my Facebook profile to log into Time Magazine, completely comfortable that now Time Magazine has access to all my personal data on Facebook.

We are evaluating Facebook using our own current concepts of privacy, but the very concept of privacy is changing.  Before, the goal is to avoid corporations and government from access to personal information, at all costs, with the assumption that they will only use it for evil purposes. The goal may now be changing in order to accommodate for the inevitable complete access to information, with the new goal of holding corporations and government more accountable for the way they use the data - in essence, fighting access to data with more access to data.  Facebook and corporations may have more access to our personal life through Facebook, but when someone gets fired or not hired for what appears on their Facebook page, the employee can now post that fact, on Facebook, shaming the company, and now the company has a harder time finding qualified applicants, which leads them in turn to develop policies of not snooping into Facebook accounts, and so the pendulum swings back.

Facebook losing its "cool" (which you can read as "secret, special place, not known to adults, not accessible to parents, not very well known to the rest of the world" - as in, "I'm cool because I am one of the few who use it") may be the biggest sign of its success, actually.  Remember when owning a cell phone was cool?

yellowseal
yellowseal

"We are evaluating Facebook using our own current concepts of privacy, but the very concept of privacy is changing."

Only because we are left with a sad dichotomy of either letting it be violated or all but becoming hermits.  We are holding people LESS accountable for the way they use data, not more, and that trend is about as easy to slow as a freight train at a full speed.

JohnSmyth
JohnSmyth

@BeezerMoolji "The goal may now be changing in order to accommodate for the inevitable complete access to information, with the new goal of holding corporations and government more accountable for the way they use the data....."


Good luck with that.

erictfextreme
erictfextreme

Facebook has deeper problems than Teen Erosion ,  its stock closed on May 24,2012 at $24.31 almost $14.00 off its IPO price.  Its revenue model is built on a targeted advertising model based on users likes comments and posts yet with all this data they were only sold 15,000 phones.  Finally Unsavory Enterprises from China, Russia and Eastern Europe are creating Fake Facebook Profiles and Placing Paid Sponsored Ads Linked to Websites Selling Counterfeit Merchandise that load Malware.