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Wed Oct 6, 2021, 10:54 PM

What Happened When Facebook Became Boomerbook

Leaked documents reveal that a company that was once rebellious and optimistic is now bloated, regretful, and uncool.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/10/facebook-midlife-crisis-boomerbook/620307/



Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Facebook is only 17 years old: If it were a person, it could drive but not drink. If Facebook were a person, it would also be fabulously wealthy, incredibly successful, and exhaustingly argumentative. And it probably wouldn’t use Facebook. The disclosures in The Wall Street Journal’sFacebook Files,” leaked by a whistleblower named Frances Haugen, are incendiary. But one of them probably troubles the company’s executives more than yesterday’s service outage, the proliferation of fake news, or even suggestions that Facebook stoked the Capitol riot and violence against the Rohingya people in Myanmar. According to the company’s own research, young people think Facebook is uncool. In a statement that will chill the heart of anyone who remembers cassette tapes and the original version of Baywatch, one 11-year-old boy told the company’s researchers: “Facebook is for old people—old as in 40.” The statistics bear out that assessment. Five million U.S. teenagers log in to Facebook every day, compared with 22 million for Instagram, according to the materials leaked to The Journal.

Most teens I know regard Facebook as the place where their parents go to argue about politics and their grandparents post vacation pictures. And which self-respecting member of Generation Z wants to hang out in an old folks’ home? So it’s goodbye to Boomerbook, and hello to TikTok or Instagram instead. (There is some consolation in this for the company because Instagram, like the messaging platform WhatsApp, is also owned by Facebook.) Facebook’s gray shift should change how we talk about the company’s effect on society, and about social media more generally. This isn’t a young person’s problem. Yes, teenagers are particularly susceptible to peer pressure and the social contagions of suicide and self-harm. The “Facebook Files” included an internal study into how Instagram makes teenage girls feel about their body image (not good), while TikTok and YouTube appear to be driving sociogenic illness—what was once called mass hysteria—among the same demographic. But social-media companies are no longer new, and their users are no longer early adopters. Too much focus on impressionable youngsters obscures research such as the 2019 study of Facebook that found that people older than 65 were the most likely to share links to sites that regularly published false stories. (Around the 2016 presidential election, 11 percent of over-65ers shared links to fake news, but only 3 percent of those ages 18 to 29 did so.) Whatever social media is doing, it’s doing it to all of us.

In my own experience, young people who have never known a world without social media are more attuned to its downsides. They might have lived through a sexting scandal at school, or seen a video of bullying passed around by their peers on WhatsApp, and many correctly regard rage-tweeting as a risk equivalent to volunteering for land-mine clearance. One of Facebook’s own researchers found that older children counsel younger ones not to post content they might regret. The Journal quoted the researcher suggesting further studies “to understand if this influence over preteen sharing holds at scale. If it is common that teens are discouraging preteens from sharing, there are obvious implications for creation and the ecosystem both in the near and longer-term as preteens are the next generation coming onto the platform.” Facebook is just not built for teenage lives. Mark Zuckerberg might have created its predecessor site to help horny Harvard students rate the hotness of people in nearby dormitories, but Facebook has now become a way to keep in touch with everyone we have left behind in life: the former flatmates, the ex-colleagues, the couples who have disappeared from parties since they had a baby. Facebook is partly about keeping up with people you used to know. You don’t have so many of those people when you’re 15.

The company is well aware of this gray shift and its potential consequences. The creepiest parts of the “Facebook Files” are the documents detailing the company’s attempts to create alternative products for ever-younger users. American law forbids the collection of consumer data on under-13s, so social-media companies cannot encourage or actively tolerate tweens using their adult platforms. That’s why Instagram discussed developing Instagram Kids—a platform for 10-to-12-year-olds—because, as Instagram head Adam Mosseri reasoned, “the reality is that kids are already online.” That venture has now been paused following a backlash. But why stop at 10-year-olds? The “Facebook Files” also include an internal report from 2019 titled “Exploring Playdates as a Growth Lever,” focused on an app called Messenger Kids, for 6-to-12-year-olds, that has strong parental controls. The report tried to discover whether children were likely to promote Messenger Kids to one another while on playdates, and found that 68 percent of children did not, because their parents “view the app as a way for kids to communicate with others when they’re not together.” You can almost hear the irritation: Why do these brats keep using their flapping human face-holes? Don’t they know there’s a real market opportunity here?

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Wed Oct 6, 2021, 11:09 PM

1. Recommended.

Interesting and important. Thank you for this.

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Wed Oct 6, 2021, 11:33 PM

2. Yeah, Facebook has dropped to a mere 2.89 billiion users

Only 37% of the world's population makes use of that moribund platform.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 6, 2021, 11:37 PM

3. LOL

indeed

Every time an article is written on the very bad no goodness of social media, I lulz

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Response to Orrex (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 12:27 AM

6. No one firm, especially one as unaccountable and destructive as FB, should have that sort of reach.

It needs to be broken ip and also there needs to serious talk (not just in the US) about regulation of social media algorithms as well.

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Response to Celerity (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 01:11 AM

8. Hard agree!

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Response to Celerity (Reply #6)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 09:57 AM

10. I agree completely, but that's a different discussion

The fact that the fascist-enabling tax-dodging megacorporation must be broken up has little to do with the claim that young people are abandoning the platform.

The first point seems undeniably true, while the second seems largely false.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #10)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 10:51 AM

12. largely false?

the claim that young people are abandoning the platform.


The first point seems undeniably true, while the second seems largely false


You are the first person I have seen to dispute that. They have been leaving FB in large numbers for years (this is for the US, not all users globally, which is the focus of the article)






Why teens are leaving Facebook: It’s ‘meaningless’ (February 2015)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/02/21/why-teens-are-leaving-facebook-its-meaningless/


Younger users flee their parents' favorite social network, Facebook, at surprising pace (Feb 2018)

https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-younger-users-leaving-facebook-20180212-story.html


Why People Don’t Use Facebook Anymore? An Investigation Into the Relationship Between the Big Five Personality Traits and the Motivation to Leave Facebook (academic article from July 2020)

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01497/full


Facebook is rapidly losing millennials, US user base down 15 million since 2017 (March 2019)

https://www.techspot.com/news/79082-facebook-rapidly-losing-millennials-us-user-base-down.html

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Response to Celerity (Reply #12)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 08:08 PM

13. Regarding that last article in particular

15M is like .6% of Facebook's user base, so one can be forgiven for not declaring the company dead just yet.

And are those numbers international or US-specific? I have to suspect that at least a few of the 2.89 billion users live outside of the 50 states.

I am prepared to be proven wrong, of course, but the links that you provided don't present a strong case that FB's numbers are seriously hurting. And, as your lead excerpt note, a teen leaving FB for Instagram is in fact still supporting Facebook.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #13)

Fri Oct 8, 2021, 12:50 AM

15. I already stated they were for the US. nt

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Response to Celerity (Reply #15)

Fri Oct 8, 2021, 08:17 AM

16. Sorry, missed that, but the point remains

The entire US could drop FB while still leaving ~90% of its user base intact.

But if my earlier choice of the phrase “largely false” is unsatisfying, I could revise it to “statistically minor.”

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Response to Orrex (Reply #2)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 10:27 AM

11. Says FaceBook? tia

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Response to uponit7771 (Reply #11)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 08:11 PM

14. I Googled it

The results are numerous and have only slight variance.

If you have a definitive source for a figure that disproves mine, I will be happy to review it.

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Wed Oct 6, 2021, 11:42 PM

4. Boomers buy stuff

Facebook simply switched focus to the most profitable demographics

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Response to C_U_L8R (Reply #4)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 12:14 AM

5. Boomers buy less online (and less overall) than younger demographics.

They did have a large increase in e-commerce during the pandemic, but that is receding a bit as most countries have re-opened to a large extent.


Ecommerce Statistics for 2021

https://kinsta.com/blog/ecommerce-statistics/

Digging into Ecommerce Demographics

Millennials and Gen Xers are the biggest online shoppers, with 67% of millennials and 56% of Gen Xers preferring to shop online versus in a brick-and-mortar store. Part of the reason you see these two segments of the population spending more money online is that they spend more time shopping online. Millennials and Gen Xers spend 50% more time shopping online than their older counterparts: 6 hours versus 4 hours.

Though women are stereotypically pinned as shoppers, when it comes to online shopping, men dominate the stats, spending 28% more than women shopping online.

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Response to Celerity (Reply #5)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 08:04 AM

9. With more wealth and overall spending than any other generation

They are the group advertisers spend the most marketing dollars on.
That's the part Facebook cares about, at the risk of their own future.
No one aspires to be older.

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Response to Celerity (Original post)

Thu Oct 7, 2021, 12:35 AM

7. Explains a lot. I don't think it would have the influence among young people

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