Teenagers really are over Facebook. In February the social network warned investors that "our younger users ... are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook." And in April the investment bank Piper Jaffray reported that products and services like Tumblr and Twitter were further eroding Facebook's dominance among the Justin Bieber set. But why? Ina deep report published on Tuesday, Pew Research explains that teenagers departing the social network's blue confines are looking for something more... real. More authentic. Which, ironically, was the initial draw of Facebook, one of the first social networks to require real names.
Pew shows how Facebook has been slowly colonized by the very forces teens signed up to escape: watchful parents, too-old adults, and "drama" — nasty conversations that would never arise in real life. To contend with these annoying developments, teens aren't deleting their Facebook accounts; they're just using them less and less, spending more time on Twitter and Instagram, where conservations are limited to short-form text, links, and simple photos; or Tumblr, which emphasizes content over consolidated user profiles. Here's how one (anonymous) interviewee put it to Pew during a focus group:
Female (age 15): “I have a Facebook, a Tumblr, and Twitter. I don’t use Facebook or Twitter much. I rather use Tumblr to look for interesting stories. I like Tumblr because I don’t have to present a specific or false image of myself and I don’t have to interact with people I don’t necessarily want to talk to.”
Indeed, teenagers have become acutely aware of how social media alters our understanding of human identity.