As we sat in class last week, Professor Kane made the claim that Facebook wasn’t meant for people younger than High School Graduate Age. How could he say this! My middle school experience was dominated by Facebook. Sneaking onto my 14 inch desktop computer to check my feed flooded with photos of middle school dances racking up 200 likes or to post a status with a quote from the last movie I watched. Facebook was the “cool” way to procrastinate from doing homework. It was experiences like these which drove me to further delve into this topic because I personally was part of the crowd whose adolescence was shaped by Facebook.
I grew up alongside Facebook. Simple as that.
In my 8th grade year I was finally cool enough that my parents let me get a Facebook so that I could talk to my friends, comment on photos and post lame things about my uninteresting suburban life. Yet, Facebook gave me a platform to do it on. In those days, Facebook was primitive compared to what it is now but we got the Facebook which reflected a lot of the same qualities which Instagram has now.
Facebook got older and still got cooler. Coming home after a long day of football practice to my dad’s office where I could pretend to do homework while chatting away on 4 chat windows with Farmville in the background was easy living. Homework often wasn’t started until 9:30pm because social media sat next to me while I did my homework.
Then Facebook started to get uncool, at least for kids no more than 2 years younger than me. Facebook was “dead” and people didn’t have Facebooks who were Freshmen was I was a junior in High School, they didn’t need them. Daniel Miller from University College of London just noticed that kids thought it wasn’t cool to use Facebook anymore once their parents started to use it. Other services like Instagram and Snapchat were dominating demographics younger than me and I was perplexed why. I couldn’t understand that there wasn’t a need for the Facebook.
The answer lied in the move to mobile. While I used to spend time Facebook messaging my friend for help on my math homework through my computer, these students texted each other. While I was stuck in the stone age of viewing albums of photos on Facebook, the new crowd was flying through their Instagram feed faster than roadrunner, liking each photo instinctively without regard for the content. Filters and Editing dominated, quality over quantity or maybe I should say “contrived” over “genuine”. The move to smartphones as the basis for social media encouraged Instagram because it was simpler, more streamlined and therefore, “more cool”. With smartphones at the fingertips for the masses, Instagram’s ability to make everyone into the artist they “always wanted to become” helped spur them into being the social media which dominated my high school.
Facebook was changing into something that proved to be much more profitable than the simple platform it was when I was posting about just how “excruciatingly tired” I was for the 100th time. Facebook became a way for families to stay connected, for parents to check on their adult children, for college friends to reconnect. In 2013 Zuckerberg was quoted when he said that Facebook was more than what it was currently being used for, it was like water, a utility. High School teens knew that it was a better software which was “more integrated, better for photo albums, organizing parties and more effective for observing people’s relationships”. Yet these teens didn’t care about the fact that it was better, it wasn’t the “cool” thing. While these teens ignored it, Facebook grew into the beast we know it is today driven by advertisements and a beast of a News-Feed filled with your favorite memes.
It was true, Facebook wasn’t geared towards the younger crowd. My sister is on the verge of college and as a strong advocate of Instagram and Youtube Vlogs, just recently got a Facebook because “she had to”. According to her, “Facebook is a college thing, people find roommates on it and it’s just what people do”. She even acknowledged to tell me that she “doesn’t really get what you do on Facebook”. That’s what Facebook knew back in 2013, that they were going to become a platform which could sustain itself through continued social needs of adults, not teens who were going to abandon it after they entered the working world.
So what. Will Facebook never be used again by the adolescent population? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean Facebook won’t try to create the addiction before someone experiences Facebook. Facebook recently announced Messenger for Kids, a version of their Messenger app geared towards those under the age of 13. With stronger parental controls and lack of a phone number to register, the barriers to entry for a younger kid to chat with their friends are low. Although advocacy groups warn that it’s bad for children to become addicted so early to online messaging and smartphones, I have no doubt that Messenger for Kids will gain traction in the marketplace with so many iPads in the hands of children.
Facebook may be dead to the teen population but one can be sure that it’s far more likely for the late 20 year old to still be using their Facebook than their Instagram. They’re more likely to catch up with old friends than to be posting that perfect landscape photo with an editing job that took 30 minutes to make. Social Media will always be present in our lives, it is just a matter of what form it will take.