If you’re one of the 2.3 billion people who have a Facebook account, are you using it as much as you did when you first joined? If the answer’s no, then you’re among the millions who have either lost interest in or deserted the pioneering platform altogether.
According to a recent report [‘Infinite Dial 2019’ by Edison Research], Mark Zuckerberg’s brainchild has lost 15 million active users since 2017. While this only takes the US audience into consideration, the report’s findings are echoed in other global usage reports. In a nutshell, overall engagement has dropped, usage among under-25s is gradually declining and teens are favouring cool kids Instagram (bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1 billion) and Snapchat.
So, why are we seeing this downward trend among the younger demographic? One of the reasons cited by early adopters for using Facebook was to stay in touch with friends and family around the world, which was a major USP before the likes of Skype, WhatsApp (also owned by Facebook) and FaceTime offered the same service in a more user-friendly and less ‘noisy’ environment. The latter is a particular turn-off, with status updates, various content types, group messages, business news and ads constantly flying around. While Facebook allows you to mute accounts to curate your feed, including promotional posts, it means investing more time in a platform which has already fallen out of favour; not something many of us are willing to do.
Another trend is the growth in users over 55, many of whom are parents of young users. Whenever the older generation gets involved in something their children are doing, it immediately ceases to be ‘cool’. Having certain people from your past resurface, or keep tabs on your life, might not be an appealing prospect either. Furthermore, having to provide your name, email, date of birth and gender ties you to your real-world self from which many users are trying to escape while they explore different identities online.
Away from Facebook itself, taking a break from social media to ‘detox’ from the digital world is increasingly common as we become more aware of its toxic effects on our mental health. To quote Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, the platform was designed to be an addictive “social-validation feedback loop” and consume “as much of your time and conscious energy as possible”. As well as making demands on your time, it’s also a breeding ground for relentless comparison. Users share the best parts of their life online while keeping their setbacks, failures and insecurities to themselves, which can result in their peers feeling inadequate.
Lastly, its reputation was seriously tarnished when it transpired that Cambridge Analytica harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook profiles without their consent and manipulated it for political purposes in early 2018. Allowing users to disseminate fake news and live-stream terrorist content hasn’t helped their case. Subsequent attempts to get back into its users’ good books by rolling out new features such as Watch Parties, Stories, Live and providing information on why users see each post in their feed are facing tough competition from the shinier, more user-friendly features on other platforms.
Although some are predicting that it won’t be long before we see the end of Facebook, this is unlikely to happen within the near future. With Instagram and WhatsApp joining its gang, the social networking giant still dominates the market and will undoubtedly keep pushing to find ways to retain its enviable global user base and entice new recruits.