30 December 2013

Facebook is no longer cool in the eyes of teenagers: EU survey

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Since Facebook‘s “birth” in 2004, millions of users have logged on to the social media site. In fact, nearly half a million log on every day.

Results from the Global Social Media Impact Study, an extensive European survey, show that older teenagers, however, are not among that group. This key age group, which has moved on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat, considers Facebook “dead and buried,” according to The Guardian.

The scientists researched the Facebook use of 16- to 18-year-olds in eight European Union (EU) countries, finding that as parents and older users flood the social service site, the younger generation are shifting to different platforms. On The Conversation, Miller notes that their study involved nine simultaneous 15-month ethnographic studies, finding that Facebook just isn’t cool anymore.

“Facebook is not just on the slide it is basically dead and buried,” wrote Daniel Miller, lead anthropologist on the research team, who is professor of material culture of University College London.

“Mostly they feel embarrassed to even be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives,” said Miller.

The teenagers who were surveyed say that they do not care that alternative social media services are less functional and sophisticated. Miller said that Facebook is technically better than Twitter or Instagram, being more integrated, better for photo albums, organizing parties and more effective for observing people’s relationships and none of the four contenders have the full range of integrated functions that Facebook has. This suggests to the team that the dynamics of new media may depend on factors other than function.

“What appears to be the most seminal moment in a young person’s decision to leave Facebook was surely that dreaded day your mum sends you a friend request,” wrote Miller. “It is nothing new that young people care about style and status in relation to their peers, and Facebook is simply not cool anymore.”

The researchers found that these older teenagers are also unconcerned about how information about them is being used commercially or as part of surveillance practice by the security services.

The team interviewed Italian Facebook users, finding that 40 percent had never changed their privacy setting. Eighty percent reported that they “were not concerned or did not care” how their personal data was accessed or that it was available to either an organization or an individual.

The scientists point out that information that people choose to share on Facebook has generally been through a psychological filtering process, unlike conversations, photos and videos shared through more private online tools such as Skype, or on mobile apps.

“Most individuals try to present themselves online the way they think society is expecting them to,” wrote UCLA anthropologist PhD student Razvan Nicolescu.

“It seems that social media works not towards change of society, notions of individuality and connectedness, and so on – but rather as a conservative force that tends to strengthen the conventional social relations and to reify society as Italians enjoy and recognize it,” he added.

“The normativity of the online presence seems to be just one expression of this process,” wrote Nicolescu.

According to Forbes, the study suggests that we need to know more about the diversity of Facebook usage because we tend to treat it as a homogeneous platform and it obviously isn’t. This lack of homogeneous usage habits will put more pressure on Facebook as the stock prices are beginning to rise and the lawsuits over the 2012 IPO are beginning.

Wired, on the other hand, says Facebook and its investors shouldn’t worry. Although the older teen demographic is leaving the site in droves, the 18 to 25 year-old group is returning for the ability to connect with old friends and network with new ones. The mobile apps like Snapchat and Instagram are no replacements for a comprehensive social tool that can be tailored to all sorts of needs.

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