Some of Facebook’s (FB) core users have told researchers that their enthusiasm is waning with each visit to the social network. They get increasingly annoyed when their friends share inane details or broadcast the trivial drama of their lives. Furthermore, keeping up with the daily discourse on Facebook is becoming a chore for some and a source of stress for others.
These are not the frustrations of thirtysomethings who’ve lost the social networking bug. It’s the perspective of teenagers—ostensibly, Facebook’s future.
The latest Pew Internet & American Life Project study delves into teens’ growing disillusionment with Facebook. It’s still the most popular social network—94 percent of teenage respondents said they have an active account. But growth has stalled year-over-year. With 90 percent market penetration, that’s not unexpected, but many teens revealed that their Facebook habit has become a chore. “Teens feel they need to stay on Facebook in order to not miss out,” the researchers write. (Another thing that won’t make Facebook advertisers happy: Teens are happy to “friend” classmates, celebrities, and even their parents, but they’re not friending brands in meaningful numbers.)
The Pew study comes on the heels of last month’s Piper Jaffray (PJC) report, which put some stark numbers behind the degree of teen Facebook fatigue that’ swept across the social networking site in the past 18 months. The research tied in the potential for wide-ranging fallout on retail, fashion, gaming, and other youth-oriented companies that rely on social networks such as Facebook to market their brands to this $819 billion consumer segment. To be sure, social media chatter about brands is an increasingly large influence on teenagers’ purchasing decisions; having trendy teens speak positively about the brands in their lives is but one way for retailers to stay relevant with this fickle demographic.
The Piper Jaffray and Pew Internet research point to a larger shift. Teenagers are no longer showing the same preference for social networks where the focus is me, me, me. To wit, Piper Jaffray’s study cited the rise of freewheeling social news and discussion forums such as Reddit and 4chan among this demographic; Pew says Twitter is now the fastest-growing social network for teens.