This year is predicted to hit Facebook where it hurts: in its most popular demographic. According to new research, 18-24 year-olds will abandon the social media giant by their thousands, throwing up new questions about the site’s relevance in a fast-moving and paranoid world.
The report, conducted by eMarketer, estimates that 6.7 million of UK users aged 12 to 24 will access Facebook in 2018, down by 700,000 in 2017. It is anticipated the gap will be filled by half a million over-55s, whose new interest in the site will see them become its second-largest demographic.
Students have typically been reliable users of social networking sites. In 2014, one study revealed that 87% of university students use social media apps, and Harvard University put the specific percentage of college students using Facebook at 88%, higher than any other demographic. Making new contacts is deeply entrenched in university culture, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that Facebook represents such an integral part of university life. With so many young people abandoning Zuckerberg’s 2004 creation, however, will students also be tempted to move on?
It is possible they will join the wave of social media defectors, those who are opting for more visual-based apps such as Snapchat and Instagram. Facebook has always been a hub onto which users build long-lasting and often acutely in-depth portfolios. It is designed to showcase the best parts of one’s identity, covering statistics such as interests, place of work and relationship status, and is interjected with spontaneous moments from day-to-day life.
Snapchat, on the other hand, offers a far more intimate space in which to share real-life moments, usually with a small group of people. In order to ensure a greater level of privacy, photos and videos also self-destruct after a set amount of time. Since news surfaced that universities are not averse to checking an applicant’s Facebook profile to determine suitability, these features may be all the more attractive to prospective students.
After all, no one wants to arrange an event called ‘Big Steve’s Crazy Freshers’ Sesh’ on LinkedIn.
It is almost as if the social media bigwig has had its grave dug for a long time now. For years it has been spoken unkindly of (often by the same over-55s now flocking to Facebook in droves). Indeed, there are many studies which accuse Facebook of breeding a poorer state of mental health, uncovering a link to anxiety and a greater degree of narcissism. Conversely, as in those cases where science and anecdote differ, there are individuals who claim social media was the only thing to pull them out of a deep state of depression.
In either case, it is currently unclear whether students will be part of the 700,000 breaking up with Facebook in 2018. Still, as a prime location to organise events, and a platform that still feels vaguely impersonal enough to add new friends (unlike Snapchat), it remains largely compatible with university life. After all, no one wants to arrange an event called ‘Big Steve’s Crazy Freshers’ Sesh’ on LinkedIn.