What used to be an obscure internet in-joke seems to be metamorphosing into a mainstream, pop cultural narrative in technological circles and beyond: Facebook is for old people. Perhaps initially a result of an almost intuitive gut feeling — Isn’t everyone’s grandmother now on Facebook? — this sentiment is now backed by raw data. Facebook is slowly losing its grasp on the youth, which has started migrating to platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.
According to Statista, Facebook currently has 2.2 billion monthly active users. Facebook’s user base might still be growing, but it is mostly older age groups that are responsible for this growth.
eMarketer, a market research company focused on digital marketing and media, published an interesting blog post on February 12.
“In 2018, the number of US Facebook users ages 11 and younger will decline by 9.3%. Additionally, the number of users ages 12 to 17 and 18 to 24 will decrease by 5.6% and 5.8%, respectively. This is the first time eMarketer has predicted a decline in the number of US Facebook users in those age groups.”
In eMarketer’s estimates, Facebook will lose 2 million users ages 24 and younger this year. Apparently, young people are migrating to Instagram and Snapchat. eMarketer also predicts Snapchat will add 1.9 million users ages 25 and younger, which is three million more than Instagram will add.
Earlier this year, Recode reported on Facebook’s daily active user base in the U.S. and Canada falling for the first time ever. A decline in usership, however small, is not a good sign for the social media giant, Recode writers asserted.
This is hardly a surprise. In 2016, a demographic report published in International Business Times showed that 3 million teenagers left Facebook in 3 years.
In the world of digital attention economy, is there a currency that triumphs youth? A Business Insider report from 2015 refuted the conventional wisdom that it is women who drive online shopping trends — it is actually men. Millennials, consumers aged 18 to 34, are the key demographic for e-commerce, despite having lower income than older adults.
Likewise, there will come a point when there are more dead Facebook users than living ones, and judging by eMarketer’s predictions, that day might come sooner than anyone thinks.
“A clown listening to a dead man’s voice – that’s perhaps the only way I know how to describe the feeling of coming across my Aunt Jackie’s Facebook profile. She’s in this space just as I am, but I know that she’s also dead,” BBC‘s Brandon Ambrosino wrote in an article about Facebook’s growing digital graveyard.
According to some estimates, Ambrosino wrote, more than 8,000 Facebook users die each day, and about 30 million have died in over the first 8 years of Facebook’s existence.
Perhaps in response to these trends, Facebook launched its Messenger Kids app in late 2017. Instagram, which seems to be one of the most successful youth platforms, has been criticized for borrowing from Snapchat after introducing Snapchat-like features, such as Stories, in an effort to cater to the young.