Phase Book?

Teens may be showing a waning enthusiasm for Facebook due to increasing adult presence, but then, how long will they manage to stay away?

Phase Book?
The other day we were talking about pictures and posts on Facebook. The vivacious 20-year-old next to me said “I don’t really use Facebook anymore. It’s been a few months since I posted.” Naturally, the rest of us at the table were intrigued. She continued, “You get tagged in pictures. I never know who gets to see it and then you have to deal with embarrassing comments.”

I was not surprised. My two teenagers have sleeper accounts. The answers were consistent. Facebook has become crowded and intrusive for teens. If we hark back to our own angst ridden teen state, surely we remember that providing parents with too much information led to nothing but unnecessary interrogation. Take that one step further and your mom could actually scold you on your wall in front of 300 friends.

Blurred lines

According to a study released by iStrategy, three million young ones have left Facebook. Teens (13-17) on Facebook have declined —25.3 per cent over the last three years. There has been a -7.5 per cent drop in the young adult (18-24) segment as well. Compare this to the 55+ who have jumped on the social bandwagon with a +80.4 per cent growth in the last three years. Another study from Piper Jaffrey, tracking different channels shows a decline on Facebook and Twitter. But wait for it. No surprise here, there is a sharp uptick on Instagram.

Privacy mirage

Log in to the home screen and it is like a microscopic local society news page. Obits, births, engagements, marriages, anniversaries, vacations, check-ins. It’s all there. Your own curated social content with a special algorithm to carefully push through news that you need to see. All information is being shared at will across generations. It is called permission marketing. I choose to share. Therefore, I am what I share.

Sneaking around

Now that their parents and their grandparents have joined Facebook, kids have to watch what they are saying. According to Pew Research, 91 per cent are friends with members of their extended family. 76 per cent are Facebook friends with brothers and sisters. 70 per cent are friends with their parents. 30 per cent are friends with teachers and coaches. Then there is the peer pressure. They also have to sound cool and act cool. What is cool for their friends seems like an issue for their parents. I overheard this conversation between a mom and her daughter the other day: “You know I don’t see your brother’s posts anymore. He doesn’t really like Facebook like you do.” The daughter replies “Mom, he blocked you right after he accepted your friend request.”

Familiarity and contempt

It used to be that you gave your parents some information and you gave your grandparents even less. With the wall of wonders, grandparents, distant relatives, cousins ten times removed and relatives you probably never met after you were baptised have all become friends. Add to this pot, your friendship with your teacher who might want to know why didn’t you attend her class and checked in to an afternoon showing of Catching Fire. This unnatural closeness leads to over familiarity without the prerequisite that is required for the building of trusted relationships. Pew Research states that teens are demonstrating a waning enthusiasm for Facebook and disliking the increasing adult presence, excessive sharing and the stressful drama. About 60 per cent of teen Facebook users keep their profiles private, and most report high levels of confidence in their ability to manage their settings. Teens take other steps to shape their reputation, manage their networks and mask information they don’t want others to know. As many as 74 per cent of teen social media users have deleted people from their network or friends list. Then you have those who have created alternate identities. Catfish, anyone?

Abandonment issues

A recent doomsday study from Princeton has been making the rounds on the social channels which claims that “Facebook is just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase.” Using the MySpace example and a convoluted model, they predict that “there will be a rapid decline in Facebook activity in the next few years.” They conclude that “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.”

This is obviously not going to happen. While teens might be a little disenchanted with the “we are all part of one big dysfunctional family, so deal with it” mantra, they will be back. There are too many people with squatter’s rights and too many companies and entrepreneurs selling goods and services. The human being is a social animal; sharing and relating, collaborating and communicating, buying and selling. This is fundamental. Let’s face it. We are hooked. Facebook confirms something that we all have suspected but never admitted. We are a society of voyeurs. Besides, no one can completely quit Facebook. Go on, deactivate. Chill for a while. You will be back and we will be waiting with our opinions.

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