Who is Facebook for? Inspired from Class

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.

qrkoa

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.

news_preview2_132

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.

6 comments

  1. I think the last sentence of your blog captures the idea very well. I have also been reflecting on my use of Facebook overtime and it has definitely changed a lot from when I was a teen. Like you, I also played Farmville and other games that kept me going back to Facebook. Now that games aren’t that popular on the platform, Facebook is not where you go to play games. Social Media has evolved so much over time because many platforms have risen to satisfy different needs. While Facebook is the main one that encompasses all functions (photo uploading, instant messaging & calling etc,) Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp have found a way to lure Facebook users and to use their platforms for more specific needs. Each person has their own preference as to which platform to use (for example, I love using Snapchat to stay in touch with my American friends when I am back home in Spain but I don’t use Snapchat with my Spanish friends because everyone uses Instagram).
    Everyone uses some form of social media nowadays but it is up to them to decide which platform (or combination of platform) satisfies their needs. The more friends you have on a specific social media platform, the more you will be inclined to use it.

  2. I definitely related to your description of your social media use. I think that, out of all the social media platforms, Facebook has the strongest network. I think that is why their stock has outperformed all the other social media platforms. I have a brother 3 years younger than me, and I can confirm that his group of friends uses Facebook way less. That may point to the steep decline in attention spans of teens and young adults. I believe that is why Facebook added stories (it added them to Instagram as you probably know, too). People just want to be able to quickly flip through up-to-date pictures and videos from friends and celebrities. To me, it is impressive how well Facebook has been able to capitalize on their brilliant platform and also been able to adjust to the rapidly changing digital world. I am interested to see how it continues handling bigger, more dramatic changes. But, as you pointed out, it comes down to people’s preferences and I am also curious to see how the next generations feel about Facebook.

  3. It’s funny to think about your comment that social media will always be present in our lives. Although I agree with you, it wasn’t so long ago that someone would have laughed at that sentiment. I am of a generation that did not grow up with social media, or laptops, or cell phones.It seems ironic that I did not grow up with Facebook but now that I am older I find it more useful – for exactly the reasons you mention. I am currently using it to coordinate multiple events involving old college friends but I never post anything on my feed. As we discussed in our class, the sharing aspect is incredibly important to Facebook’s ability to generate ad revenue. Will they be able to do that with generations who more interested in the utility of the platform and less interested with showing off their personal lives?

  4. This is such an interesting point of view to read from. As a 20 year old, I feel like I am right on the cusp of the “it’s cool” to use Facebook through a bit of middle school, and definitely during high school. Making the perfect album name was like thinking of a creative caption. Weirdly as I came into college, I thought I would use Facebook more than anything to connect to new friends. Freshman year this was definitely the case. As time went on, I started to realize people add me on Instagram first instead of Facebook or ask to pull out my SnapChat code instead of my Facebook profile. Now, I barely post anything on Facebook.
    I feel that now since many family members use Facebook to connect to their loved ones, college students and teens really do not want their family to see what they are doing. They revert the stupid posts that people used to share on Facebook to their SnapChat stories. I personally do not want my parents to see some things that relate to my college life. It’s just not the right environment to post that kind of information. Due to this new “meaning of Facebook”, especially going through high school or middle school, teens are going through a phase where they want their own privacy. Therefore, they revert to Snapchat since there’s no way for their parents to see those pictures. My mom doesn’t even know Instagram exists.

  5. There are a couple things in this post that you mentioned that I never really took the time to step back and think about. First, it really makes me feel old to realize that my brother who is only three years younger than me, along with all of his friends, never even thought to get on Facebook.
    But what you said that really made me think was “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”. I got on facebook in 2010, and I would guess that I completely abandoned it until college right around 2013. I was so frustrated that Facebook had lost its identity. I remember the day that my 65 year old aunt friended me on facebook I told my friend that it was dead, and there was no use for it anymore. Shocking that Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg was right, and 15 year old Jake was wrong, huh?

  6. I think your post is super relevant to thing’s I’ve noticed recently. Just a few days ago I was commenting to my friend about how I couldn’t believe that a freshman on my team’s instagram, which was very similar to mine, got nearly 500 likes, while mine got around 150. Her response: “they’re from a different generation, it’s not worth comparing.” The craziest thing is that I knew exactly what she meant, even though 3 years is definitely not a generation! The way I grew up with the internet is already so different from those a few years older or a few years younger than me and it’s crazy to see it quantify itself in that way.

    That said, I also wanted to touch on your comment on how Facebook is evolving its target market and how platforms like Instagram are taking over for younger generations. I think it’s important to remember that Facebook owns Instagram. Just like you were saying with Facebook Messenger for Kids, Facebook’s purchase of Instagram is just a different example of Facebook strategically trying to be the main source of contact for literally everyone possible. I think going forward Facebook in its purest sense will continue to have a spot in our lives, but that the company will keep coming up with creative ways to remain relevant and on the forefront of our daily life, even if it just means buying up the competition.

%d bloggers like this: