Facebook is “dead and buried” to older teenagers, an extensive European study has found, as the key age group moves on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat. Young people now see the site as “uncool” and keep their profiles live purely to stay in touch with older relations, among whom it remains popular.
“Facebook is not just on the slide – it is basically dead and buried,” wrote Daniel Miller, lead anthropologist on the research team, who is professor of material culture of University College London.
“Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things,” Miller said.
Researchers with the project are interviewing people about their social media use over 15 months in simultaneously conducted ethnographic studies in eight countries. While the project is still in its fieldwork stage, Miller and his colleagues have teased out some early findings from their research with 16-18 year olds.
“Most of the school children in our survey recognized that in many ways, Facebook is technically better than Twitter or Instagram. It is more integrated, better for photo albums, organizing parties and more effective for observing people’s relationships,” said Professor Miller, adding that “slick isn’t always best” in attracting young users.
WhatsApp has overtaken Facebook as the number one way to send messages, said the researchers, while Snapchat has gained in popularity in recent months by allowing users to send images which “self-destruct” after a short period on the recipient’s phone in order to maintain privacy.
Snapchat claims that 350 million images are sent every day, and reportedly recently turned down a $3bn (€2.2bn) acquisition offer from Facebook.
Evan Spiegel, the co-founder, who lives at home with his father despite an estimated net worth of $3bn, last month said that “deleting should be the default”.
Facebook, which will be a decade old next year, is currently offering 70m shares for sale at $55.05 a share, 41m of which belong to founder Mark Zuckerberg and are being unloaded to cover a tax bill.
Facebook’s appeal to younger social media users is a big part of the study, but it’s not the only one. In part of the study’s research with Italian Facebook users, 40% of users had never changed their privacy settings and 80% said they “were not concerned or did not care” if their personal data was available and accessed, either by an organization or an individual, reports the Guardian.
“Most individuals try to present themselves online the way they think society is expecting them to,” wrote contributing anthropologist Razvan Nicolescu on Thursday.
“It seems that social media works not towards change – of society, notions of individuality and connectedness, and so on – but rather as a conservative force that tends to strengthen the conventional social relations and to reify society as Italians enjoy and recognise it.
“The normativity of the online presence seems to be just one expression of this process.”