Report: Youth Abandoning Facebook

John Lister's picture

Facebook is increasingly becoming a site for older users according to an online measurement company. eMarketer says last year saw a drop in younger users that was nearly three times bigger than it forecast.

This time last year the company predicted that the number of 12-17 year olds using Facebook would drop by 3.4 percent. That was significant as it was the first time it predicted any form of drop among any age group.

Retirees The Main Growth Area

A new report from the company says in reality the drop was 9.9 percent. It also says there was an overall fall in users among under-25s, something it predicts will happen again this year. The figures are only estimates, so it's likely they aren't perfectly accurate, but it's likely the wider trends are correct.

It doesn't appear to be specific to the US either: eMarketer also predicts that younger users will continue abandon the site in the UK, while the numbers will increase among over 45s, with retirees the fastest-growing demographic. (Source: theguardian.com)

Several sources have rival theories for the pattern. One is that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy with younger users not wanting to use Facebook because they see it as uncool and dominated by older users. (Source: gizmodo.com)

Youngsters May Not Like 'Permanent' Record

Another idea is that Facebook's main benefits simply don't appeal to younger people. That theory goes that older users like the idea that they have a long-lasting record of their lives and events that acts almost as a family journal or photo album.

In contrast, younger users are supposedly more interested in "living in the moment" and the idea that interactions are transient. That might explain the continued growth among young users of tools such as Snapchat where messages and photographs are automatically deleted almost immediately after being viewed. Some analysts believe this reduces the social pressure for photographs to be "perfect" and always create an idealistic image.

In theory the shift to an older demographic might be a problem for Facebook as marketers traditionally target young adults who have a lot of disposable income. In practice that may not be a big issue given that Facebook is able to offer extremely targeted advertising.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you noticed a shifting pattern in the ages of your friends and family who do or don't use Facebook? Do you think this trend will continue? How do you think this will change the Facebook experience?

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Comments

Dennis Faas's picture

There are so many variables in trying to predict what the numbers are saying - therefore I am not sure I believe younger users are "abandoning" Facebook. Also this report is only looking at 2 years of data. More data is needed to give a much more meaningful report.

For example: the decrease in numbers could be that parents are more strict in preventing kids from using Facebook due to cyber bullying. Another possibility might be that Facebook growth has finally plateaued and there aren't as many young kids discovering Facebook as initially predicted.

At any rate, one thing is certain: Facebook is in fact a great way to catch up with people you knew from high school due to the sheer number of people using it!

Rusty's picture

I know I am in the minority, but I’m one older non-user of Facebook. I steer clear because of the privacy invasion and security risks. Sure there are privacy controls, but it’s not worth it to me to be bothered with trying to make sure they are set like I prefer them. It probably boils down to my not having great need or interest in broadcasting my life to the masses or to much of any subset of them either. Strict privacy control usually equates to decreased site functionality and I’d bet that is true of Facebook. I honestly don’t know because I have never had an account. Besides all that, I guess I too prefer to live in the moment. I’m feeling really young right now...

ifpusr's picture

Good for you Rusty! Couldn't agree more!

ehowland's picture

Funny as heck, love it, love seeing it crumble and implode. Humongous privacy problems with FB and the ads from foreign governments, always thought it was an enormous waste of time, glad to see it go....