Facebook’s Numbers are Down. Where are the Kids Going!?

In my early years, I remember when MySpace was huge success, it was ubiquitous. I felt as if any miss clicked link on the internet would have lead to a MySpace page.

I found myself wondering “Why would someone tell the world everything about themselves on the internet? What is there to gain?”  

In school, we sit in class and listen to the teacher. As early students we have very little to offer the class, so we are told to sit down and listen. After all, if you are speaking you’re not listening, right? I felt that there was nothing to gain by professing to the digital world who I am. So initially I saw no need to subscribe.

People use social media to feel connected to the world around them. In this we create a digital footprint that says “I am here” and “this is what I have done and can do”. In a modern world that forces us to work full time, go to school, and behave a certain way, social media can alleviate the symptoms of inadequacy in most of us. Enter Uses and Gratifications Theory.

This theory is one method that tries to explain how social media audiences are not only idle consumers but interpret media as they would like. This means that social media will always have something for you.

The majority of respondents in a small study of 25 participants say that they use Facebook because they have more contact with people through social media than in person. A good portion of the participants say they use Facebook for entertainment such as music, videos, and comic relief by watching the “crazies on Facebook”.

Fast forward a few years…  Everyone is talking about this Facebook thing. It lets you keep in touch with friends, and get to know people you never met, and play games. I keep telling myself, “I am not going to be like everyone else and get into this new fad. After all, who uses MySpace anymore?”. A year or so rolls by… Feeling like the only person in the world without Facebook I eventually caved. I subscribed and added a few close friends, and in very short time, my friends list grew to over 300 people; most of whom I went to school with. This made me feel good.

While in high school I had crushes on lots of girls and I would like to think a few of them had crushes on me. What I needed to do was overcome my anxieties and break the ice to strike up a conversation. Unfortunately I became too reliant on the internet to have any meaningful conversations. I may have missed out some really good relationships only because I was to scared to say “hi”.

This anonymous poster explains that he has experienced the same problems I had. Looking into my past, there was a time when I would be far more comfortable being seen nude on the internet by anonymous users rather than being seen naked in the same room with them. This shows how intimate we can be with users we don’t know, so I can relate to our friend here.

Sherry Turkle is a psychologist who wrote a book titled Always On. She wrote largely on her experiences in the online game Second Life, and continues to mention that it’s normal for people to feel more like themselves online than they do in the real world. In her TED talk she speaks of how this is about controlling your environment, and that we want to keep people at a manageable distance. We want to seen without flaw. Social media does not take place in real-time, therefore we can edit, delete and add to our messages, photos, and videos. These are things we cannot do in face to face conversations.

Mrs. Turkle quotes what an 18-year-old boy she interviewed said, “…someday, someday, but certainly not now, I would like to learn how to have a conversation.”

She remarks on sacrificing conversation for mere connection. An overabundance of connection can lead to isolation. In this isolation we never can develop a capacity for solitude. Solitude is where we find ourselves. Her expression “I share, therefore I am” feels like an accurate statement describing what I was putting myself through.

The issue does not stop there. According to Kendra Cherry there are eight major types of non-verbal communication. In addition to this, we all know that verbal communication also conveys meaning and feelings. With most social media we miss out on a great deal of information as we communicate. I thus became unfamiliar of the 8.5 forms of communication and to an extent, lost some ability to relate, use, and interpret it.

High school ended and it was time to move out of my mother’s basement. I landed a job that required strong interpersonal skills with fellow co-workers. Often I would have to be disconnected from the computer for several months at a time. At first this was a struggle, eventually I lost the need to be connected at an unhealthy level.

While I still have my Facebook profile, I am using it less. I now find the majority of posts on my news feed adhere to Sturgeon’s law that 90% of everything is crap. I am forced to see people’s views on topics such as politics, religion, and feminism to name a few. Many posts appear all along the lines of “click like if you are against hungry people” or “I got this in school” or “im bored”. Phrases like “my parents are unfair and don’t understand me” deliver overwhelming drama gives me something to laugh about. But all this junk is becoming old.

Hyperlinks of videos, songs and images propel me to investigate what my “friends” lives are all about. Media is created for us and with a simple click of the “like” button, we are sharing to the world that somehow there is a deep relationship that we (the end users) have to this media content, even without any vested effort on our part create it.

“While I still have my Facebook profile, I am using it less…”

I want to refer to the statistics provided from iStrategyLabs. Most specifically the youth demographic. While reading through our course material, we learn the 13-24 age group are leaving Facebook. How can this be?

As you can see the 13-24 age group shows a large decline in Facebook accounts as of January 2014. I would have expected high school and post secondary students to flock to Facebook and not away from it.

One girl I dated in the past year used Facebook along with Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter with ceaseless texting ad nauseam. I found it all rather annoying. She convinced me to give them all a try, but it took one day before I deleted every new app she told me to get. How dense can someone be? How many onion layers of our self do we need to peel every day to be happy? How much self-expression and the need to feel connected is too much? In my line of work I need to keep secrets, not share them. Her obsession to be connected to everyone seemed unhealthy and I did not like it.

So where are the youth going? According to Becky Worley from Yahoo News, we can “upgrade our life” by moving to some of the new social networking programs. Here are some social networking programs my ex-girlfriend did not know about: Path, Kik, Kaka, Line and Pheed.

First it was MySpace, then Facebook. The next big thing, will be many things. As our interpersonal virtual requirement to feel connected grows, then so must the number of methods to share ourselves. A lot of the social media has moved to the mobile market. Facebook’s response to seeing its diminishing demographic was to hastily buy Whatsapp for $19 billion to stay on peoples mobile phones. Facebook declined a job application for co-founder of Whatsapp Brian Acton in 2009.

I find it interesting to note, Brian Acton remarking about Facebook on Twitter. In 2009 Twitter was the fourth most popular social network.  This year it comes in second.

Whatever the future may hold for social media, we now know that it has replaced porn as the number one activity on internet today. Quite the fad regardless of the medium used. One thought does stands out; we are social beings that have a need to be needed. As we see in my story, satisfying our needs for digital placebo is not healthy. We have to be careful of the impact that modern social media has on our lives. In addition to becoming socially inept and dependant, we may turn into Richard Foreman’s “Pancake people” who actually believe that a “like” will produce water for thirsty children in Africa. I have already seen this. Time to go offline.