Facebook has an issue with teens. CFO David Ebersman even admitted it in the most recent quarterly earnings call, saying that the site has seen a dip in daily active teen users. Regularly, studies and stories come out about how Facebook will fail in the future because of its declining use among teenagers. An article in The Guardian points to messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat and KakaoTalk as the preferred method of communication among high school-aged students.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook is doomed long-term. Just because someone is using Snapchat at 16 doesn’t mean that they will use it at 25 and so on. Facebook has grown and adapted, but it seems many people still think Facebook is what it was in its infancy — a private way to connect with classmates and close friends.
[contextly_sidebar id=”346568edf905a33a31758d6d2317897c”]The newest report in The Guardian points out that teens are scared about oversharing through Facebook and feel more comfortable with private messaging apps that don’t broadcast things to the world (or to family and random Facebook friends). Facebook isn’t the “cool” place that it once was when you needed an .edu email address to access the site, but the social network had to adapt to a different type of “cool” and open more broadly in order to be financially viable.
The Guardian sheds light on where these teenagers are going, other than Facebook:
Their gradual exodus to messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat and KakaoTalk boils down to Facebook becoming a victim of its own success. The road to gaining nearly 1.2 billion monthly active users has seen the mums, dads, aunts and uncles of the generation who pioneered Facebook join it too, spamming their walls with inspirational quotes and images of cute animals, and (shock, horror) commenting on their kids’ photos. No surprise, then, that Facebook is no longer a place for uninhibited status updates about pub antics, but an obligatory communication tool that younger people maintain because everyone else does.
All the fun stuff is happening elsewhere. On their mobiles.
The narrative that Facebook will fail in the future because teens are not using the site as often seems flawed. Facebook might not be cool at 16, when many people just want to message their close friends and not broadcast messages to the world. However, teen users do grow up. Once these younger users start going to college, getting jobs and having kids, their outlooks on sharing may change. These same users who prefer messaging apps might want some kind of way to connect with a broader range of people, such as relatives and co-workers — groups of people who either don’t exist yet for teens or who aren’t well known.
Facebook is a living, breathing product. It started out as a way for college classmates to connect, with strict privacy controls. Now, as Mark Zuckerberg says repeatedly, Facebook’s goal is to make the world more open and connected. Maybe some teens aren’t ready for that yet.
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