We all know that Facebook is not 'cool' anymore. Various studies, articles, and even Facebook employees themselves, acknowledged this two years ago, so why is Facebook still the leading social media platform amongst 18-34 year olds?
Teens in particular, hardly post anything anymore - especially not anything they don't want their parents to see, or their gran to comment on, instead opting for Instagram or Snapchat for this.
However, as highlighted in the recent, very popular Medium post A Teenager's View on Social Media, whilst young people refrain from posting much personal stuff on Facebook, they all still do have a Facebook, and in fact, it's 'weird' if you're not on it. It just seems young people use Facebook in different ways now.
This blog aims to highlight three ways young people now use Facebook:
- Private Communication
- Consuming Information
- Developing Identity
The first point, about private communication, concerns both instant messaging and private groups. Facebook has excellent facilities for both of these, and the one thing it has over other platforms which do these things better, is that almost everyone is on Facebook. Trying to get your friends to all migrate to a new platform with only marginally improved features, is going to be very difficult.
The second point concerns how much information Millennials consume via Facebook now. Whilst they don't post the kind of content they may Tweet / Instagram / Snapchat, they instead use Facebook as a carefully curated feed of things they want to keep up-to-date with. I for one, follow all the pages which publish news and updates which I am interested in, and I regularly click on them, often reading them via the Facebook app on my phone. News blogs, bands, pressure groups, comedians - if I am interested, I follow them on Facebook, rarely going direct to their websites. I no longer care so much for photos and statuses from my friends even, (in fact, many of them I 'hide'), instead allowing my newsfeed to populate with fewer friends' posts, and more news and videos.
The third way in which young people now use Facebook is to do with expressing their own identity, even having the freedom to change it if they so wish. Prior to the digital revolution, you could carry around certain magazines, books and newspapers, to show friends and peers what you were all about - this was especially important for youth, for whom forming and communicating their identity is of major concern. They would show off to their friends 'I read the NME', or 'I read poetry books', or 'I read political journals', by visibly carrying a copy around.
This is less the case now however. Firstly, because Gen Y / Millennials now consume most information and media digitally, and secondly, because this behaviour can now be replaced by 'liking' Facebook pages. You can proudly display your 'likes' to friends, happy in the knowledge that a carefully curated list of 'liked' pages can make you seem cool, intelligent, likeable, kind, funny, caring, alternative, or other favourable characteristics. Millennials are very aware that they WILL be looked up and 'stalked' on Facebook by their peers, and they spend time perfecting their online presence to 'brand' themselves and express their identity. If a young person sees a new Facebook friend 'likes' the pages of rock bands and Download Festival, they will be able to form an opinion on said friend which is different to a Facebook friend who you can see follows Arsenal and The LAD Bible pages.
On top of this, with so many online publications offering free and readily available content, readers will often be highly influenced as to whether to follow a page themselves, judging by how many of their other friends have liked it. Perhaps something has popped up in your newsfeed saying a friend has 'liked' it, but you've never heard of it before. After clicking through to the page, you see that 20 of your more respected friends already like it. After a quick once over, you are more than likely going to follow it too.
As well as online publications, this is true of bands, books, TV shows and films. If a young person was wanting to find the best artists at a festival they are attending, rather than working their way through 100 bands on Spotify or Youtube, they may well go straight to each artist's Facebook page to see how many Facebook friends (whose musical taste you respect) have already 'liked' the artist page, before they commit to listening to them. What with so much music and other media readily and cheaply available now, it's often easier for Millennials to filter which information and entertainment they are prepared to 'give a go' this way, rather than wasting time starting books or films which they don't end up enjoying. It's the equivalent of asking your friends, 'what do you recommend?'