Why Facebook is losing teens

It’s been shown again and again that digital services age in dog years. There was a time when having a MySpace profile was edgy and cool, with its Top 10 Friends feature and music-based model. However, the arrival of Facebook, with its simple interface and lack of ads, toppled MySpace completely. Falling as quickly as it rose, MySpace went the way of the telegram; an archaic means of communication mentioned only as the butt of the joke. Facebook laughed, and it’s been laughing for years. But with the coming of newer, hipper rivals like Instagram* and Snapchat, Facebook isn’t laughing anymore.

Facebook: Boomer Central?

A commonly cited reason for leaving Facebook among teenagers is the influx of parents and older people to the website. Facebook is still the most popular social media platform by far amongst people outside the 12-17 year old demographic. When you’re a teenager, there is nothing less cool in the world than your parents. Why on earth would you want to share a social media platform with them? There’s no quicker way to have your hot new pic seen as uncool than to have your mom comment “CUTE! That’s my baby!! Love, Mom” underneath.

Old people and social media mix to hilarious results
Old people and social media mix to hilarious results

The presence of relatives on Facebook has deterred teenagers from acting like themselves while posting, wary that whatever they say will be brought up at the dinner table. Teenagers have to moderate what they post so much that Facebook might as well be LinkedIn.

For today’s teenagers, their presence on social media is crucial for their social status. They don’t want to present themselves as some sort of sanitized, grandma-friendly figure. They’re teenagers; they want to seem rebellious, unique, and aloof. The demographics of Facebook do not allow them to do that.

Snap Today, Gone Tomorrow

Snapchat has stolen Facebook’s teenage users away, and they show no signs of turning back. The main appeal of Snapchat to teenagers is its impulsivity and lack of permanence. The Snap Stories feature, which allows users to upload videos or photos that last for 24 hours before being deleted, is incredibly popular among teenagers because users are encouraged to post more spur of the moment content, as opposed to Facebook’s timeline model encouraging the posting of more “significant” content. People aren’t going to post that shaky three-second clip they took of that cute dog on Facebook, but it would be perfectly normal to see it on a Snap Story.

By encouraging off the cuff, mundane content, Snapchat constantly stays in the back of its user’s heads. Facebook recognizes this design philosophy and has copied it wholesale with its “Moments” feature. Facebook’s core design is that of a timeline, displaying significant events or content chronologically on a user’s profile.

Snapchat is the exact opposite, being a social media platform that focuses on content that’s in the moment. For teenagers, who constantly ebb and flow between what they see as cool, having your embarrassing or uncool posts erase themselves only to be replaced by cooler and newer content is highly appealing.

Facebook in the Future

Snapchat currently stands as the most popular social media platform among people 12-17 years old. Reports from eMarketer suggest that Snapchat will gain 1.2 million new users in that demographic by 2022, while at the same time Facebook will lose 2.2 million teenage users. Because Facebook is still the most popular social media platform outside this demographic, they may double down and cater to their older user base. While this may alienate their younger users even further, it seems that Facebook is now past its trendy, younger days.

* Yes, Facebook owns Instagram. But the migration from the lucrative Facebook platform is a problem for the company.

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