In my spare time, I am a communication professor, and for the past few years I have been teaching a history of mass media course on the college level. Each semester, the students put together a media diary in which they monitor their media usage for three days. It's usually pretty eye-opening for them to see just how much media they consume. However, the past few semesters have also been eye-opening to me.
"I barely use Facebook anymore," one of my students said this semester, "because it's too annoying." (Italics, mine).
In fact, the majority of my students mentioned a decline in their use of the social media giant, opting instead for Instagram or Twitter. Given this information, I was not at all surprised with the report that came out this week stating that teens were leaving Facebook.
According to Facebook's Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, teen usage of the social network fell in the last quarter.
"We did see a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens," Ebersman said, sending down the stock from the rise it saw after earnings were announced. "We wanted to share this with you now because we get a lot of questions about teens."
What are those crazy kids doing rather than sitting around "liking" each other's posts all day? According to some reports, teens are spending more time on Instagram, the photo-sharing site. Instagram doesn't allow for lengthy commentary, overtly political rants or an overwhelming number of event invitations. What it does allow for is pictures, the tagging of pictures and the liking of other people's pictures - and that's about it. Instagram also doesn't have one very distinct feature that Facebook has: your mom and your grandma.
According to a Pew research poll in May of this year, the number of teens using Facebook stayed fairly static but the percentage of those who adopted Instagram and Twitter jumped by double-digit numbers, 11 and 26 percent respectively.
One of the study groups quotes a teen female with stating: "Yeah, that's why we go on Twitter and Instagram [instead of Facebook]. My mom doesn't have that."
In my own findings amongst college-age students, the "mom" factor didn't seem to be as prevalent as an attempt to avoid drama. One of my male students who recently turned 20, mentioned a complete disgust with the website because of his "friends' need for attention." He explained how after too many "look at me" type of posts, he went on a blocking rampage; I think we can all relate.
Another student of mine echoed this sentiment saying that Facebook is only good for a laugh, and if she wanted to see what people were "up to" she would just "check out their pictures [on Instagram]."
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The Pew poll too found this same perception from teens. One of the highlights of the study found that "teens show that they have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful "drama," but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing."
One of the things I like to ask my students after administering this project is, "So what's next?"
Will teens eventually jump the Facebook ship forever and is it Instagram that they will all go to? What happens when their parents sign up for Instagram accounts or their teachers start assigning homework over Twitter? Will teens move on to whatever is next? Teenagers are notoriously early adopters and want the latest and greatest, but will there be a point of backlash among this age group? Will the latest and greatest ever be picking up the phone, or to go really retro and start writing letters again?
I have a secret hope that all of this social-ness will come to a head, and the zombie/robot/apocalypse will actually just be a glorious paradigm shift away from social media. However, by that point we will be living in bunkers doing nothing but complaining about the lack of sunlight and "liking" our 5,040 friends' pictures of rehydrated soup and, of course, their feet.