Did you see the recent Time Magazine article,”Is Facebook Losing Its Cool? Some Teens Think So.” It is another in the ongoing conversation about which Social Networks are getting more attention from teens. There is no concrete scientific study (at least not that I know of) saying that teens are fleeing Facebook like a flock of birds flying south for the winter. But if they are it should not be a surprise to us.
Why you ask? First, think about when you were a teen. Did you like hanging out with your parents, siblings, uncles and grandparents or would you have rather been hanging out with your friends? That’s easy, you would have rather been with your friends. The same concept applies in the world of Social Media.
When teens first signed up for Facebook, they were doing so because their friends were on it and not their family members. Fast forward a few years and with Facebook’s growth, now their family members are on Facebook too. Some teens may choose to leave or limit their Facebook use based on this. Like the one teen stated in the Time Magazine article, “All your relatives are constantly commenting on your stuff. I appreciate the gesture and wanting to keep up with my life, but it’s kind of annoying.”
The second reason it should come as no surprise that teens may be leaving Facebook is because teens are early adopters. What I mean by this is when something new comes out, a new TV Show, a new piece of technology a new type of music. Teens are quicker than their adult counterparts to check it out. They don’t sit back and ask a bunch of question and perform a detailed analysis before they try something. Because they are early adopters, they are likely to try something new early and when everyone else begins to claim that thing is popular, teens are already moving onto the next great new thing.
This is why companies like Facebook are constantly making changes. They are trying to keep it fresh and new enough to keep teens and early adopters engaged and interested.
Third, Teens are at a stage in life where they are beginning to try to separate themselves, stand out and not blend in, figure out who they are as an individual. If the word on the street is everyone is on Facebook, then being on Facebook is not setting themselves apart from others. It is blending in when they want to stand out. This is not to say they won’t still have a Facebook account, but they will be looking for a way to stand out on Facebook or find another avenue to set themselves apart from the crowd.
Lastly there is more Social Networks available now. Five years ago there were only a handful of Social Networking options. Today it seems there is a new one in the App Store every month.
Teens have choices, and what they have decided to do is use different social networks for different types of activities. In talking with teens I hear them say they use Facebook for connecting with family and group work for school. They love Instagram because they can share pictures about what is happening in their life and things that interest them. They like tumblr because it is like an online Diary where they can share pictures and videos that inspire them or reflect how they are feeling on a given day.
Companies are paying attention and trying to combined the best features of the different social networks into one. Case in point is Facebook’s accusation of Instagram and the development of a new Social Networks like Snapchat and Pheed. (Read more about Pheed here)
What does this mean for parents and youth workers?
- Pay attention. Once you think you know about all the social networks your teens are on, they are probably checking out 2 more. Stay in the know by following sites like Mashable on Facebook or twitter. Or just navigate to the site and read the articles. When something new in the area of social media comes on the scene they are one of the first to report on it. If you read about a new Social Network or App, ask your teen if they have heard of it. If they have, ask them about it. Ask them to show you how it works or why they think it is cooler than other Social Network.
- Pay Attention Continued. Periodically check out what is on the Top Charts of the app store. This will give you a basic idea of what is currently popular. And check your computers browser history to see if the new Social Network site pops up as a recent site visited. This will tell you if your teenager has visited the site.
- If you work with teens understand what your teens use each Social Network for. This will help you decide what platform to use if trying to engage with teens via social media. Better yet, include them in the process of creating a social media outreach strategy for your group/organization. Teens love to feel like they are teaching someone older than them something.
- If you are a parent, don’t like EVERY comment your teen makes on Facebook. And definitely do not scold them in the comments section. You can observe from a distance on social networks so they don’t feel you are watching their every move.
What Social Networks are your teens using?