Mike Isaac

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The Kids Love Twitter; Facebook, Not So Much


Flickr/Ei Katsumata

As far as social networks go, recent popular opinion suggests Facebook, for all its reach and power, just ain’t cool anymore.

Most of those claims have been anecdotal. The most prevalent voice came from Josh Miller — co-founder of competing social startup Branch — whose argument hinged mostly around the behavioral habits of his teenage sister. Despite a lack of hard evidence, this somehow reinforced just how passe Facebook supposedly is.

Alas, as of Tuesday, we now have a study to bolster the claims. Teens are expressing “waning enthusiasm” for Facebook, according to a recent study from the Pew Research Center. Teens, according to the study, are tired of all the “drama,” the stress of managing their online reputation on the network, and are “annoyed when their Facebook friends share inane details.”

Contrast that waning enthusiasm with an increase in teen Twitter signups over the past two years. Nearly a quarter of online teens use the microblogging service, according to the study. Fascinating, considering the “inane details” Facebook complaint; it wasn’t so long ago that many dismissed Twitter as “the service for letting people know what you had for breakfast.”

As the report states, teens took some time to warm up to Twitter, a service that was first colonized by adults. Today, however, “teens are now migrating to Twitter in growing numbers, often as a supplement to their Facebook use.”

It’s worth noting that while Twitter may be increasing in popularity with the kids, it’s not necessarily at the expense of Facebook in terms of user activity (at least, not yet).

Indeed, the teens queried in the study aren’t leaving Facebook. Rather, they feel burdened by it, a necessity of existing online in the 21st century. “While Facebook is still deeply integrated in teens’ everyday lives,” the report stated, “it is sometimes seen as a utility and an obligation rather than an exciting new platform that teens can claim as their own.”

Perhaps that’s why Facebook Home — the fully Facebook-ed version of an Android phone — doesn’t seem to be taking off. Or maybe that’s why Poke — Facebook’s Snapchat clone aimed squarely at the teen audience– was dead in the water just weeks after launch. Perhaps, at least with teens, Facebook isn’t desirable as every part of our connected experience, but rather as relegated to one part of it: Our identity.

Which, admittedly, isn’t the end of the world for the social giant. Facebook wants to be an online directory of people, making it possible to look up profiles as you would thumb through a phone book of yesteryear. And with Facebook Connect, you can take that online identity across the Web to sign in to any number of commenting systems, applications and partner sites.

Still, losing mindshare and desirability from the young audience today isn’t good for the long term. Today’s kids will be tomorrow’s adults, folks with jobs and a willingness to buy the things they see in the Facebook ads served to them.

Teen or not, Facebook wants you to be delighted to visit its site, not obligated. Perhaps the company can spur that feeling in teens again someday — drama not included.

Image courtesy of Flickr/Ei Katsumata

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus