Facebook was in the headlines recently, as it so often is. But this time, the globe-spanning social media platform was not making news for some new tweak to its interface or yet another perceived violation of user privacy.
This time, journalists were writing Facebook’s obituary.
“Facebook is ‘dead and buried’ to older teenagers, an extensive European study has found,” wrote England’s Guardian newspaper, “as the key age group moves on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.”
The story was widely picked up in the media as reporters rushed to declare Facebook ancient history, at least as far as younger users were concerned
But now the lead researcher on the team that compiled that “extensive” study says that the media distorted his findings, and the study, and blew the “dead and buried” comment way out of proportion.
“In some media, my post was used for more sensationalist purposes to claim that Facebook itself was doomed,” wrote Daniel Miller of University College London. “This was ‘news’ at a Christmas period when journalists were short of news. Most important was the way items spread easily through the viral impact of digital media. Phrases such as `dead and buried’ shifted from a description of Facebook losing its cool for English schoolchildren, to the supposed fate of Facebook as a whole.”
In fact, as Slate magazine writer Will Oremus points out, the “extensive European study,” was not particularly extensive at all. The research consisted not of a sweeping, trans-European survey, but of “door-to-door interviews with people living in a cluster of villages north of London,” Oremus noted.
Both Oremus and Miller point out that whether young people consider a social media platform, or anything, “cool” and whether it is “dead” are two entirely different things.
A survey released today by Pew Research group, cited by Slate, shows that Facebook is far from dead. To the contrary, Facebook remains the dominant force in social media, even among the 18-29 age group.
The Pew study covered users 18 and older. It showed that, comparing use of all major social media platforms, Facebook leads the way with 71 percent of adults on the service in 2013 — compared to just 22 percent for distant runner-up LinkedIn.
While, as Oremus points out, Facebook has lost some cachet among the sub-18 crowd, it is far from “dead and buried.” Facebook itself noted “a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens,” in an October earnings report.
At the same time, according to the earnings report, the vast majority of American teenagers continue to use Facebook. Note that the widely cited Guardian story specifically mentioned “older teens” as the group losing interest in Facebook.
“Social networks can either be cool or they can be ubiquitous,” Oremus writes. “Facebook chose the latter long ago.”