Facebook is no longer relevant to teenagers in the U.K., a new study has found. As parents and older users dominate the social network giant, teens are turning instead to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat to connect with their friends and peers. While the fact that Facebook is no longer seen as cool to teenage users is old news, the study provides a look into why.
"What we've learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried," wrote Daniel Miller, an anthropologist leading a 15-month global study on social media. "Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it." And the reason for that is parents are now active on Facebook, even going so far as demanding that their kids update often so they know what's going on in their lives.
While online privacy issues have dominated the headlines this year, teens don't care so much about government surveillance as they do parental surveillance. "Among our UK subjects, there was no evidence that these issues [of surveillance by governments or big corporations] affected their choice of social networking service," Miller wrote. Meanwhile, the "seminal moment" for teens deciding to leave Facebook is when their mom or dad sense them a friend request.
Similarly, Miller's teammate on the study, Razvan Nicolescu wrote that 80 percent of respondents in Italy said they "were not concerned or did not care if an individual or an organization would use their personal date available on the platform." In other words, the revelation that NSA was accessing Facebook information or that companies use Facebook data to make targeted ads to users does not seem to be turning teens off as much as their own parents being on the site. But teens still love and need to connect with their friends online, so they turn to other networks.
Miller's research has unearthed an interesting test of how close of a friend someone is, depending on which social network they use to communicate. For instance,
Snapchat is for the closest friends, Whatsapp is for quite close friends, Twitter is for wider friends, while Instagram allows strangers to easily connect. Facebook has become the decidedly uncool link between teens and older family members.
Earlier this year, a Pew Internet survey found that teens' enthusiasm for Facebook was waning. But the idea that teenagers are turning away from Facebook really caught on after 13-year-old Ruby Karps' op-ed in Mashable went viral in August. Two months later, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook "did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens."