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Teens Flee Facebook

Mum, stop cramping my style!

Like the average age of the first time buyer in the UK, the typical Facebook users is 40.5 years old. Sign of a mid-life crisis? The crippling embarrassment of hanging out with mum and dad is once again driving the kids away to other social media networks.

As parents and hip(-replaced) grandparents get to grips with Facebook, the younger generation are flocking elsewhere. Teenagers are still on Facebook but it’s undeniable that they’re using it less.

Why is this? Because, contrary to popular misconception, it seems that young people do actually place a high value on privacy. We can see this in the decline of the traditional blog and the rise of mobile apps. The old-fashioned personal blog is something of a relic now, as the preference is to avoid a permanent archive; blogs are now for entrepreneurial or business purposes as opposed to the purely personal.

Twitter was the initial alternative to the orthodox blog, offering 140-character updates as a micro-blogging platform; however, Twitter is also not far behind Facebook in the silver-haired stakes with the average user checking in at 37 years old.

Snapchat’s success indicates towards this value on privacy as, although we are under no illusion that the data is permanently deleted, it is seemingly lost in the continuous stream of temporary chat-based networks rather than being archived forever – because of this, despite sending out multiple images a day from the inane to compromising, the younger generation are favouring Snapchat, where images self-delete after a matter of seconds, as a paradoxical way of maintaining privacy.

Importantly Facebook is not private, neither in its dealings with its users or in how users deal with each other. The gradual exodus of teens to mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp boils down to Facebook becoming a victim of its own success. In gaining over 1 billion monthly users, a large proportion of these have to be mums, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents who are spamming their walls with inspirational quotes and embarrassing pictures of their kids – we may have to put up with this in day to day life but it’s everything we seek to avoid online. Much like the town skate park or shopping centre, social networks are where kids go to escape their style-cramping parents. 

It’s no surprise then that teens are spending less time on Facebook and are less keen to upload pictures from last night at the pub. It seems all the fun stuff is happening elsewhere: on mobiles, the last bastion of personal privacy. 

WhatsApp, Snapchat, Tumblr, Instagram and Vine are where the kids are lurking – these platforms offer instant interaction and fun. Rather than distinguishing between ‘real’ life and ‘virtual’ life, these networks are extensions of existing friendships which parents are yet to trundle into.

To return to the issue of teens and online privacy, mobile messaging apps promote personal security in the sense that the people you are interacting with are those already in your phone book (as the nature of these apps requires a personal telephone, which for the vast majority will have had to be knowingly exchanged person to person). Instead of passively stalking someone you barely know on Facebook, mobile messaging apps encourage real-time conversation.

The trends being set by WhatsApp and Snapchat – which so far have shunned big advertisers – counters recurring criticism of young people’s attitude to social media; rather than an irresponsible disregard for their online security, many are in fact embracing the virtues of privacy and a less traceable digital footprint.

Recent graduate and now interning as content editor, when she's not writing articles Katie can quite likely be found festival-ing, holiday-ing or reading a book (dedicated English student that she is). Follow her @KatieAtSMF.

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Teens Flee Facebook Reviewed by Anonymous on Monday, July 21, 2014 Rating: 5
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