Nicole Uvieghara is only 18, but that’s old enough to
remember the good old days on Facebook.
“I used to log in to Facebook every day,” said
Uvieghara, a Murrieta, California, native and freshman
at Arizona State University. “Now, I go, like, once a
week. On my news feed, I rarely see posts from my
friends and I have not posted things on my wall in the
past year.”
Her experience isn’t unusual. Teens are cooling on
Facebook, a trend suggested by recent research and
acknowledged, this week by Facebook itself. The shift
was confirmed time and time again in e-mail and
phone interviews with dozens of teens and their
parents in CNN’s reporting of this story.
While the social-networking juggernaut continues to
chug along among adults, boasting more than 1 billion
active users, younger users are flocking to newer, and
arguably hipper, networking tools.
Sherman Watson of San Francisco said he’s noticed a
dip in Facebook use by both his 18-year-old son and
the younger employees at the retail store he manages.
“I think his generation, and definitely the younger
ones, view Facebook as boorish and — let’s face it —
something that their parents use,” Watson wrote in
response to a Facebook post seeking thoughts on the
issue. “Funny how history repeats itself in this regard.”
Instead, he said, mobile apps like Facebook-owned
Instagram, and Vine, Twitter’s video tool, are where
teens increasingly go to share.
For the first time this week, Facebook confirmed the
trend is real.
“We did see a decrease in (teenage) daily users,
especially younger teens,” Facebook Chief Financial
Officer David Ebersman said Wednesday during a
quarterly earnings call.
It was just months ago that Ebersman called the
decline of teens using Facebook an “urban legend,”
saying they were active on more sites, but not cutting
back on their Facebook visits. CEO Mark Zuckerberg
added that it “just isn’t true” that Facebook has a teen
But even then, there were signs of a slide.
In May, a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life
Project included focus groups with teens who said their
enthusiasm for Facebook had waned. They cited the
increasing presence of adults on the site, as well as
stressful “drama” among friends.
The survey showed use of Twitter among teens
jumping from 11% to 26% between 2011 and 2012.
Teen Facebook use, on the other hand, remained
essentially flat. (Albeit at a massive 93-94%).
Instagram use, which wasn’t measured in the 2011
survey, was at 11% in last year’s.
Most teens in the focus groups said they kept their
Facebook pages, but had migrated to new tools and
sites for most of their activity.
That sounds about right to Alex Hager, 16, a high
school junior in Darien, Connecticut.
He said the rise of new networks — video-clip app
Snapchat and messaging tool KiK are other popular
choices — has met a desire among his peers who would
rather communicate directly than broadcast to
hundreds of Facebook friends.
“Everybody was Facebook friends with everybody in
my grade, regardless of how well they knew each
other,” he said. “This meant that whenever somebody
publicly interacted with somebody else in your grade,
you would see it instantly.”
Now he’ll post things like the YouTube videos he and
some friends make about his school’s sports teams to
the site, but said “I rarely ever use Facebook to post
statuses or photos anymore.”
While Facebook has downplayed the importance of the
trend, the site simultaneously appears to be taking
steps to address it.
Earlier this month, Facebook changed privacy settings
for teens, allowing them for the first time to make their
profiles public. Teens may now also turn on the site’s
“Follow” feature, which allows people to view their
posts whether the teen has accepted a friend request
from them or not.
Teens who join the site will still have their settings
default to “Friends Only” and, if they switch to public,
they will get pop-up warnings explaining what having
a public profile means.
The public nature of Twitter has been appealing, teens
say, because they can build bigger followings and
interact with people up to and including their favorite
celebrities. The same goes for other apps.
“It makes you feel relevant and wanted because of the
number of followers a person can have and the likes
you can have on your photos,” Uvieghara said,
describing Instagram.
She said she doesn’t think her Facebook use will ever
pick back up. Hager, meanwhile, wasn’t so sure.
His thoughts might provide a ray of hope for Facebook.
Because, given enough time, the teens who are fleeing
Facebook become the adults who still flock to it.
“I hope that my peers continue to use Facebook in the
future,” he said. “It will be a valuable means of staying
in touch as we move on to college and careers.”

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