On December 27th, the Guardian proclaimed Facebook to be dead, citing a growing perception among teens that it’s for their parents and therefore not a place they want to be. This came out just in time for the end of the year survey articles of 2013 and 2014 forecasts and therefore got huge play. More recently, TIME magazine published a study saying that between 2015 and 2017 Facebook will lose 80% of its users.
A lot of attention has been giving to this emergent trend that Facebook is “uncool”. Indeed Mark Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook doesn’t care about being cool anymore. Well, bully for him. The fact, however, is that it really was never about the cool factor for millennials. Rather it was all about keeping in touch with your offline community. It filled a need for us and that’s why Zuckerberg actually created it.
At college your social experience is suddenly much different. Instead of a thousand students (max) in your year like you had a high school you have several thousand all with different majors and courses. And even if you go to a smaller college you will still have to deal with your social circle being flung to the far corners of the country. I was at one of the first Universities to be let into the network in fall 2004 and I remember impatiently waiting for other Universities to be let in so that I could connect to my friends back home. When community colleges were included that was super awesome. We could actually KIT in realtime!
When the network expanded to allow parents to join once again I was at the right time to embrace that. I live across the country from my family and it proved and still proves to be a great way to keep in touch. Of course it did lead to the creation of protected photo albums the last thing you want is your grandma seeing that outfit you wore last Friday night! But the point is that I matured into the point at which I wanted to get in touch with them. Facebook grew as 20-something grew. We have driven the growth of Facebook. For that reason it’s us rather than teens that stockholders should be worried about. We spend the most money, and are the most socially savvy. BUT, there’s been an ongoing trend according to Pew of us “taking a break” from Facebook and for us this has nothing to do with Facebook being “not cool”. The first wave of anger over Facebook and user drop off occurred when they started screwing with their Terms of Service and Privacy Settings in 2009. That was the first time that I ever contemplated deleting my account. And I know I was not alone.
As millennials, we care about the brand as a whole. We care about transparency and honesty. We like companies that are lovable. Yet Zuckerberg’s Facebook is increasingly the antithesis of millennial values. Facebook seems to now go out of its way to show that it really couldn’t care less about its users. And thanks to that attitude, I can safely say that as a twenty-something, I feel no loyalty to Facebook. Rather it is the network that I’m stuck with and believe me as soon as I can get away I will. That should be a sentiment far more troubling than any “cool” problem because, as a recent study predicts, each departure has a cascading effect, weakening the network.
What do you think about Facebook and Millennials? Tweet me @suzimcc with your thoughts!