Facebook is Dead?

The Techcrunch article “Facebook Without the Cool Kids” declares:

A study of Facebook use among 16-to-18-year-olds in eight EU countries recently concluded that Facebook is “dead and buried” to teens, who have migrated to rival platforms like Instagram (itself owned by Facebook, of course), Snapchat and Twitter.

facebookSeems like a pretty tall order to declare it dead!  According to Wolframalpha Facebook has 620 million visits a day, making it the number 2 website in the world, sitting just behind Google and just above YouTube.

It’s way to easy to look at the article and conclude that the story they tell is true.  Facebook without the cool kids will falter, advertisers with desert it and all the time and effort we’ve put into building our Facebook networks will be for naught.

It warrants some further investigation, I found a similar article on the Guardian and traced the report back to the original source from UCL Social Networking Sites & Social Science Research Project, there Daniel Miller says:

This month my focus has been on the sixth formers, that is 16-18 year olds at schools in The Glades, our UK fieldsite. For this group Facebook is not just falling, it is basically dead, finished, kaput, over. It is about the least cool thing you could be associated with on the planet. It has been replaced by a combination of four media, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

He then says:

most of the schoolchildren say they will remain on Facebook, but in essence as a mode of family interaction because their parents and even grandparents are starting to see it as almost an obligation to keep in touch through Facebook. So I don’t expect Facebook to necessarily disappear altogether. Rather it is finally finding its appropriate niche where it will remain. But I think it’s finished for the young in the UK and I suspect other countries will follow.

Such is the viral nature of the media these days it seems that the wrong message got out there with the declaration that Facebook was dead, Miller felt he then had to post a follow-up blog where he says:

WAS THIS BIG NEWS?

Well not really, the very reputable Pew Research Centre in the US had published a report called ‘Teens Haven’t Abandoned Facebook (Yet)’ on 15/08/2013. So I was not the first to note these trends. However, while Pew found that in the US Facebook still takes the bulk of teens’ attention, I observed that in The Glades it was now relegated behind its rivals and used for family much more than for peer communication. That is why I could say with confidence that with respect to coolness Facebook is ‘dead and buried’ for these teens. But then their survey ended in Sept 2012. By 5/11/13 Pew had published ‘5 sites teens flock to instead of Facebook‘.

I don’t think anyone reading my original blog post would be misinformed. I don’t ever suggest that Facebook is doomed. I state clearly that Facebook is expanding in other field-sites and age groups and that these same teens retain Facebook for family purposes. My data overwhelmingly made the case for this loss of cool. The phrase ‘dead and buried’ unambiguously only refers to the way Facebook is never going to be cool again for this age group.

He goes on to say:

I am not of course happy when a subsequent journalist mistakenly claims that this trend was found in all eight countries, or when European funding is turned by some reports into the project being a study of Europe. Journalists have to work to demanding deadlines, but equally I was not responsible for these mistakes, which simply distort what I had said. I am sure there are journalists who have as much concern with integrity and keeping people properly informed as we do. We will want to work with those journalists in the future as a partnership, with anthropologists having the time for more sustained research, and journalists helping to rewrite for and disseminate to a wider public. Over time genuine positive collaborations are entirely possible and to be welcomed.

We rely on the media to supply us with information which we then use, talk about and form opinions about.  If you’re using Facebook as part of your social media strategy this type of news could lead you to wind it back and focus elsewhere.

Facebook is still the 2nd ranked website in the world, it may not be cool with some older teenagers, if they’re the audience your after then use another way to get to them!  For now, Facebook for us oldies.  Well, at least anyone from 20 years and up!

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Let me know what you think