Facebook battles to stay young and cool

PHOTO: AFPSixteen-year-old Owen Fair child doesn’t hang out at Facebook as much as he did when he was just a kid.

It is not that he and his friends are abandoning the social network. They are spreading their love to rival networks like Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, Instagram and blogging platform Tumblr.

Newer contenders

“I’ve moved on,” the teenager said. “I go to Tumblr a lot more; there is a lot of funny stuff. SnapChat is super-fun because you can send really unattractive pictures of yourself and they will delete after a few seconds.”

Contrary to what grownups might think, teens sometimes prefer to catch up on life face-to-face in the real world, he added.

“I think Facebook is still very popular even though some people might be losing interest,” added the Grade 11 student.

Facebook, born on a college campus a decade ago, has grown to 1.23 billion active users worldwide.

But as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary, Facebook is now facing challenges in keeping its original base of young users as new social networks vie to be the coolest on the Internet.

A social networking trend set in motion by Facebook has been accelerated by soaring popularity of smartphones that let people share images, videos, thoughts or observations at any moment.

Shifting demographics

Facebook’s demographics appear to be shifting as adults, even seniors, use the network to catch up with long-lost friends and stay connected to family and colleagues.

Princeton University student Susannah Sharpless said she and friends have stopped letting Facebook consume their lives.

“Everyone in my friend group went through this stage where we hated Facebook and deleted it,” Sharpless told AFP. “I was one of the first people to get it back. Slowly, everyone did.”

Breaking from Facebook served as a detox period during which she and friends got a better handle on what was a daily habit, the college junior said.

“I check my Twitter feed all the time; there is nothing that I definitely need to know on Facebook.”

She also finds more interesting fare on Instagram, which Facebook bought in a billion-dollar deal. But Sharpless also said, “Facebook isn’t done… I think it is just changing in the way people use it.”

Interactions at Facebook by people ages 13 to 24 grew about 29 percent last year, according to Socialbakers. “Teens are definitely not leaving en masse as some reports would have you believe,” Socialbakers data specialist Ben Harper said.AFP





  • Facebook had 1.23 billion monthly active users at the end of 2013, based on company data, or roughly one-sixth of the world’s population. Some 945 million of the users were accessing Facebook on mobile devices.
  • The biggest market for Facebook is the United States, with 146.8 million users in late 2013. Next was India (84.9 million).
  • The age range of Facebook users is seen as a key topic. The consultancy iStrategyLabs reports Facebook has lost three million teens in the United States since 2011, while the number of over-55 users rose 80 percent. Some other research challenges the idea that Facebook is losing teens.
  • Facebook billionaires include co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin and its first president, Sean Parker. Chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg has also become a billionaire with the rise in Facebook’s stock.
  • The Social Network,” the film about the origins of Facebook, won four Golden Globes – including for best picture and best director – and three Oscars, for best adapted screenplay, original score and film editing.



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