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Apparently Facebook isn’t cool anymore. Like Bebo, Myspace and MSN it has faded into cyberspace afterlife and become part of the virtual worlds’ Z list . The Guardian recently reported that their research on 16-18 year olds in eight EU countries shows that as older users join Facebook, focus has shifted to more fashionable platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. Does this research conclude that Facebook has finally been toppled of its social media throne, or has this small and fickle demographic simply lost interest?
At the grand old age of 22 I’m not going to attempt to get into the mind of a 16 year old but if I dig deep in the crevasse of my awkward teenage memory, I do remember the excitement of Bebo (first years- that’s Facebook’s great grandmother who has since retired to the Caribbean). I remember taking great delight in letting the whole world know just how cool and fun I was. Does any one else remember the skinz (yes with a ‘z,’ please join me with a facepalm), when they introduced a leopard print one life was well and truly made. If you didn’t have Bebo you weren’t cool (I was never cool regardless of my leopard print Bebo just for the record) it was part of the teenage schoolyard culture to have a Bebo and later MySpace account and when it became uncool you simply stopped logging in. To a teenage mind, social media is to a large degree, a social symbol, even we old people remember, and occasionally still confess to joining in, posting as many photos and statuses as possible to let the world know how much fun you’re having. The more exciting, regardless of accuracy, your life is perceived the higher one climbs up the social ladder. So is that what is happening to Facebook, its no longer an acceptable social status to have an account or is it like so many things in the fast paced, ever changing world, simply becoming obsolete?
Like all social media, Facebook is about the people you connect with, partly why Twitter is increasingly popular is you get to hear from people who actually interest you. Obama, Lady GaGa and even Boris Johnson are waiting to share their life and that’s definitely more interesting than the majority of Facebook’s newsfeed, as the popular, student-aimed website Coolage, scathingly points out. In fairness they are largely right, on Facebook there has been a clear drop in people posting anything overly personal or sharing any important details. There are plenty of people on my Facebook who I don’t want anywhere near me, virtual or not but they have to be there otherwise its seen as quite simply rude. We all have family friends who only have you and their dog on their newsfeed and delights in telling your parents who you were with at Sugar before you even stumble home. But when you run into Great Uncle Albert at the annual gathering how do you explain the obvious delete.
This leads into one side of the Facebook story; young people want to escape parents and such and are searching for a more exclusive way of sharing their thoughts. We’ve all been there, needing a bit of social media sympathy/ ranting platform but thinking twice about sharing ones thoughts or even opinion in case it gets back to someone it shouldn’t. This is where social media sites such as Path and Tagged come in. Both are targeted at young people and only allow you to connect with a certain amount of people meaning you can share your inner most thoughts, or your opinions on the Sherlock bromance, without 607 people knowing or vocally disagreeing with you.
So is Facebook going anywhere? Right now I don’t believe that it is, with over a billion active users it is still a highly functional platform for connecting with businesses, friends and colleagues. However is it just a matter of time before Facebook joins Myspace in cyberspace obscurity? Young people are fickle and quick to move on, it only takes one upcoming generation to decide what the new Facebook is and for the rest of the world to follow suit. It seems though that Facebook isn’t cool and young people are over it, but only time will tell if it will be gone for good, after all, not everyone likes cool.