A teen’s take on social networking: ‘Facebook is dead to us’

8 Jan 2015

A 19-year-old student has just burst the social media bubble. He reveals as far as teens are concerned, Facebook is like a family dinner party they can’t leave, they don’t understand the point of Twitter, but Instagram gets it.

The post on Medium by a 19-year-old male student attending the University of Texas in Austin could make uncomfortable reading for social media ninjas, hipster marketing gurus and of course a number of social media organisations.

The teen acknowledges he is part of a demographic coveted by marketers but social media as many understand it, just isn’t where it’s at from where he and his age group stands.

“Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave.”

What teens want from social media

However, what teens actually dig about Facebook is its Groups functionality.

“I know plenty of classmates who only go on Facebook to check the groups they are part of and then quickly log off. In this part Facebook shines — groups do not have the same complicated algorithms behind them that the Newsfeed does. It is very easy to just see the new information posted on the group without having to sift through tons of posts and advertising you don’t really care about.”

He also said Facebook is useful for finding out about people they met at parties, for example, and its messaging function is also popular.

“To be honest, a lot of us simply do not understand the point of Twitter,” the teen said. “There is always a core group at every school that uses it very religiously to tweet and another group that uses it to simply watch or retweet, but besides that many don’t use it.”

He said those that do use it see it as a place to be followed by a bunch of random strangers, they enjoy the search engine functionality and many are using it as an advance self-promotional tool for future careers.

“Twitter is used like Facebook — you post with the assumption that your employer will see it one day.”

Snappy Snapchat is fire and forget

The teen said Snapchat is quickly becoming the most used social media network, especially thanks to the advent of My Story.

“You post yourself getting ready for the party, going to the party, having fun at the party, leaving at the end of the party, and waking up the morning after the party on Snapchat. On Facebook you post the cute, posed pictures you took with your friends at the party with a few candids (definitely no alcohol in these photos). On Instagram you pick the cutest one of the bunch to post to your network.

“Snapchat is where we can really be ourselves while being attached to our social identity,” he said, without the pressure of follower count or Facebook friends.

Blogging platform Tumblr was described as a place where you can be followed by random strangers without your identity being attached and is seen by teens as a “judgment-free zone.”

Medium, he said, is quickly overtaking WordPress as the blog creation site of choice. In particular, he praised the “recommend” function and its eschewance of the bottom half of the web in favour of being able to comment right next to the text.

Other networks, such as LinkedIn, are usually places that teens know they will eventually visit when they get to college while Pinterest is “mainly female-dominated and is for those who have an artsy/hipster focus. Not too many people talk about it.”

The teen described WhatsApp as a little forgettable after your holidays and is beginning to be overshadowed by Facebook Messenger.

Picture this: Instagram wins

The real winner among social networks, according to the teen, is Instagram. He said it doesn’t have the social pressures of following people back on Facebook and mainly the content is of a higher quality.

“Instagram is by far the most used social media outlet for my age group. Please note the verbiage there—it is the most used social media outlet. Meaning, although the most people are on Facebook, we actually post stuff on Instagram. It’s always fascinating to me to see a friend with 1,500 friends on Facebook only get 25 likes on a photo yet on Instagram (where she has 800 followers) she gets 253.”

He added: “There are no links on Instagram, meaning I’m not being constantly spammed by the same advertisement, horrible gossip news article, or Buzzfeed listicle about the ‘28 Ingenious Things For Your Dog You Had No Idea You Needed’.

“Those are some reasons why many people my age tend to use Instagram more than they do Facebook.

“Everything about the application makes it less commercialised and more focused on the content, meaning more teens are inclined to visit it. When we do visit the application it is a much more pleasant experience so we are more inclined to Like and interact with the posts more. This increases our interaction with the application, meaning we will use it more.”

Social networking teen image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years