There have been innumerable posts and articles about how Facebook is no longer “cool,” or as important to teens as it once was.
Frustratingly, however, much of the speculation I’ve seen regarding this has been based either upon anecdotal evidence, or upon research that isn’t projectable to the population of teen Facebook users.
So, I decided to take a look at some hard facts. According to our most recent public data release (The Infinite Dial 2014), Facebook is currently used by nearly 80% of Americans 12-17 and 18-24 (and you can learn more about our sampling methodology here.) In fact, articles that trumpet Facebook’s lack of growth with these demographics are missing the point—Facebook is nearing its practical limit with young Americans.
Now, it may or may not be true that Facebook is no longer “cool” with teens (a question Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t appear to be the least concerned about, by the way). I would submit that this is the wrong question. Think about the other services and mobile apps that teens and young adults use—how do you think they are logging in to them? Facebook’s “helpful” management of our identities for services like Instagram ensures that for millions of people, Facebook is the plumbing for the Internet. And while there may indeed be teens quitting the service, every minute someone new turns 13 and signs up for an account.
A Facebook account is the new driver’s license. Getting one isn’t cool—it’s what you can do with it that is.
Those who believe teens are leaving Facebook in droves should also consider this stat—the average number of Facebook friends per demographic:
So, to be clear, when we say that teens are abandoning Facebook, we are saying that they are willing to leave behind a network that averages 500-600 people, with no easy way to replicate it elsewhere. Cool? No. Plumbing? Yes.
Finally, it may in fact be a valid observation that teens are using the service less. But here is what I can show you—we asked Americans 12+ who have a profile on Facebook how many times in the last 24 hours they checked their Facebook page (either via desktop or mobile.) Here’s what they told us.
What this graph tells us is that teens on Facebook check their accounts an average of eight times per day. Is this a lot? Well, I can tell you that when we asked this question in 2012, the average for teens was six times per day. Teens lead the pack in terms of frequency of usage, and that frequency is increasing, not decreasing. What else do Teens do eight times per day besides eat?
I will note that the rise of mobile Facebook access and the concomitant use of a smartphone’s notification system to take the place of an actual Facebook page visit may have cut down on the actual time spent with the service—but there is no credible data extant to suggest that, yet. And again, let me stipulate that Facebook might in fact be “less cool” than it used to be.
But for millions of teens across America and in many parts of the world, Facebook is the single most formidable brand in the world—and that’s unlikely to change in the short term.