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Teens say ‘meh’ to Facebook’s drama and flock to other networks

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, at 7:44 a.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013, at 11:51 a.m.

Facebook has finally acknowledged something that Oscar Meth, 15, has known for two years.

Teens are falling out of love with Facebook.

They’re jumping to newer social media networks where parents, teachers, coaches and the whole intrusive world are less apt to be hanging out.

“Now I’m using Instagram, Vine, Ask.fm,” said Meth, of Roeland Park. “… I really like Snapchat.”

It took Facebook executives a while to concede it. But in a Wednesday conference call to report on quarterly earnings, chief financial officer David Ebersman told analysts that “we did see a decrease in daily users” among American teens, “specifically among younger teens.”

He characterized the Facebook usage of teenagers overall as “stable” despite recent national surveys suggesting otherwise.

So let’s ask local teens.

“I haven’t posted a Facebook status in I don’t know how long,” said Courtney Bogert, 17, of Independence. “Most of my friends have gone away, over to Twitter. I just don’t think we find Facebook that relevant anymore.”

Among Internet users older than 40, Facebook remains by far the favorite social network, studies show. Often the only social network.

And that’s part of the problem.

Because so many oldsters have elbowed their way onto a site once aimed at college students, “I’m hearing all my friends saying, oh, Facebook is out of style,” said Shaye Davis, 17, of Kansas City, a senior at Truman High School along with Bogert.

Davis said she still values Facebook as a means to stay linked with family members.

In fact, 95 percent of American youths still have Facebook accounts, market researchers estimate.

But plenty of Davis’ peers, who feel pressured to let their parents be Facebook friends, prefer setting up hard-to-guess handles and usernames on Twitter and Instagram, she said.

That allows them to share personal posts, photos and videos only with close friends.

Kids aren’t just gravitating to those other networks, they’re racing.

For the first time since Piper Jaffray has been tracking U.S. teens’ social media preferences, Twitter has overtaken Facebook as the “most important” network among users 12 to 17, according to a survey released last month.

And Instagram, a photo sharing service launched in 2010, has shot up the teen charts and pulled even with Facebook’s popularity. Twenty-three percent of teenagers favored each of those networks, while 26 percent preferred Twitter.

The survey carried a statistical margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, so we’re looking at a three-way dead heat. But the Facebook horse — for teenagers, at least — is fading fast.

Just a year ago, 42 percent rated Facebook their favorite social media hangout. Piper Jaffray found no other network coming close in terms of being judged the most important by teens.

Another study released this year found them tiring of Facebook for a gaggle of reasons.

“They dislike the number of adults on the site, get annoyed when their Facebook friends share inane details and are drained by the ‘drama’ that they described as happening frequently,” stated the report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Amanda Lenhart, a co-author of that study, said many teenagers like being able to better manage their privacy on sites such as Instagram, Twitter and the fast-spreading Snapchat, in which photos shared through mobile devices vanish from the network in seconds.

“Instagram and Twitter are not real-name spaces, as Facebook is,” said Lenhart. “You don’t have to try to be everything to everyone with these other sites.

“You don’t have to worry about your mom coming to you and asking, ‘Why did you not accept that friend request on Facebook from the nice lady at church?’”

That many teens are now flocking to Instagram — a service used by fewer than 3 percent of adults older than 50, according to Pew — probably doesn’t scare Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg much: His company bought Instagram in 2012.

So far, Facebook hasn’t profited from the purchase because it is giving Instagram time to grow before targeting users with advertisements. A Facebook executive said Instagram will be ready to sell those ads within a year.

Trends begin with youth, and many see their choices as the preface to the whirling tomorrow of social media: It’s becoming a carousel, not a single tent.

As it is, Nicole Kirby, communications director for the Park Hill School District, can spot the demographic divisions when she posts messages and hears back from parents, staff and students.

“I get mostly parents and staff through Facebook,” Kirby said.

“Teens mostly on Twitter. Middle-schoolers and some young parents, Instagram.”

This carousel ride is getting dizzy.

To reach Rick Montgomery, call 816-234-4410or send email to rmontgomery@kcstar.com.

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