Andy Stubbings writes:
“If you want to know how people will use technology tomorrow” a popular saying goes, “look at what young people are doing today”.
To add to the bubbling anti-Facebook resentment that we have discussed here before, we’re seeing growing signs of disenchantment and dipping enthusiasm for Facebook amongst younger people. One survey of teens by gaming site Roiworld shows one in five are using Facebook less; the main reason for this is ‘lack of interest’. After the buzz around ‘defriending’, there seems to be more interest on ‘deactivating’ or leaving the site – apparently quite an exhilarating experience, at least according to this account of a ‘post-college calibration’. And there are earlier discussions of why young people leave social networks – there’s too much drama, it’s not their space anymore, and people prefer face to face interaction where possible.
Curiously, this also tallies with a general trend that we have picked up with our Global Monitor survey this year – when asked, people in almost every country overwhelmingly expressed a preference for a small number of quality connections they can rely on rather than a large quantity of connections they can call on (levels of agreement are practically the same across all age groups as well – which you might not necessarily expect from those gregarious Millennials). Facebook’s business model is built on the opposite assumption – that people want to continually add as many contacts as possible (and then lump them all together in the same group as their ‘friends’).
There has been attention given to the fact that the average age of Facebook users is increasing, often arguing that this is a sign that the site is broadening its appeal by going mainstream. However, I’d suggest, tentatively for the moment, that a fall in engagement amongst younger people – and in this context the leading edge – represents a decline that will eventually ripple out to a mainstream made up by mainly by over-30s, a decline that will accelerate as soon as a genuine alternative to Facebook emerges.
Facebook isn’t growing up; it’s growing old.
The image is from the site of the web designer Sharath G, and is used with thanks.