Teens and young adults – those who fall into Generation Z – aren’t doing the “friending” thing as much on Facebook these days, and certainly not at the rate compared to Millennials or Generation X. According to a Pew Research Center study on teens, technology and social media from las month, only about 32 percent of U.S. teens aged 13-17 now regularly use the social network.
That is a significant drop when compared to a 2014-2015 study that found that 71 percent of teens used Facebook, beating out rival platforms including Instagram and Snapchat.
“Several issues have caused this, including recent high profile ethical and privacy concerns, increased competition from newer platforms like Tiktok, and getting judged as an app for teens’ parents and grandparents,” explained “Dr. Dustin York an associate professor of communication at Maryville University.
“What teen wants to wear the same clothes as their parents, listen to the same music as their parents, or now, socialize on the same app as their parents,” noted York.
This shift isn’t actually coming as a surprise.
Teenage users of the Facebook app in the United States had been steadily on the decline in recent years, and in 2021, it was even projected that Facebook could expect the numbers to decrease by as much as 45 percent over the next two years.
Out With The Old
Simply put, Facebook was largely seen as a platform their Generation X or Baby Boomer parents might use. As a result, the social network has slowly but surely lost traction with younger generations. However, Facebook was wise to diversify its reach over the past decade.
“Facebook’s parent company, Meta, still has a hold of 62 percent of teens using Instagram,” York continued, while further noting that the social platform risks seeing a decline in daily users in what is one of its most lucrative ad markets. Purchasing Instagram has ensured that Meta gets the eyeballs, just on a different network.
This is similar to how large multinational corporations may position different products for different consumers.
“Brand architecture is a process companies use to attract different types of customers through different brands, thus increasing the parent company stock value. The same parent company that sells a $20k Volkswagen Jetta also sells a half-million-dollar Lamborghini Aventador – both are profitable,” said York.
Facebook may now risk losing Generation Z entirely in the coming years, but it will remain a viable platform used by tens of millions of older Americans.
Re-friending With Facebook
However, York suggested that Meta may not simply be willing to let Facebook age up and eventually see its user base go extinct. Instead, the company may make future moves to rebrand Facebook as the “cool place” for younger users – even if those aren’t Generation Z.
“Facebook could make major ethical structural changes and go on a privacy public relations tour,” York suggested. “They could implement social features that teens enjoy, like more entertainment-based algorithms and more small, private group communication. But even then, Facebook will need the magic of time to make what’s old cool again. I look around my college classroom and 90s fashion is back: low-rise loose jeans and oversized shirts. Maybe Facebook has a chance with Generation Alpha.”