Study confirms Facebook is dead among UK teenagers

Mark Leiser: I am a PhD Candidate in Cyber Law at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I have written submissions for the Leveson Inquiry into the culture and ethics of the media and for the Scottish Parliament on the use of social media during trials. My PhD is supervised by Professor Andrew Murray at the London School of Economics and focuses on the effectiveness of cyber-regulation. My research and interests revolve around main areas of Internet law and policy including internet governance & regulation, democracy, social media, privacy, and intellectual property. My PhD research focuses on developing a system of modelling to measure the effectiveness and legitimacy of Internet Regulation. I write in a personal capacity.

A new study has confirmed what I stated in an article for The Drum earlier this year: In the UK, Facebook is basically dead and buried among teenagers.

This new study, funded in part by the European Union, has determined that Facebook is so uncool, that teenagers are moving away from the social media giant and onto the small niche social media apps.

The report shows some insights about how teenagers view Facebook. As you may recall, I referred to a term I coined, ‘transactional costs’. Posting on Facebook for teenagers comes with too much of a price. This ‘cost’ of being on the same social network as your mum, dad, and granny is simply too high for teenagers to join and be active users on the network. This comes about as a result of the consequences of posting, the risks and costs of too-much parental oversight, and the embarrassing friends that post secrets online out-with the expectations of rapidly developing teenage social norms.

These transactional costs have resulted in more niche apps that ensure more privacy is built into the platforms they are using. Take Tumblr for instance. It provides anonymity and a wealth of social content at the same time. SnapChat is the new erasable Internet personified. What’s App gives the exact same product as FB chat, without the need for a Facebook account.

The study confirms this: "Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. This teaches us a number of important lessons about winning the app war.”

This migration is not down to some mass exodus over NSA surveillance and big corporate brother. Teenagers are leaving Facebook altogether.

To be even more concise, the research organizers claim: “What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things.”

There you go. Facebook is dying amongst teenagers in the UK. Ironically, Instagram is thriving. (Instagram is owned by Facebook), so it is not all lost for Zuckerberg et al. It just proves that the kids just want to be left alone and will find privacy in a manner that comes at far less a transactional cost.

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