Is Facebook uncool with younger people?

Image problems of Facebook: Suddenly completely uncool

Facebook is growing and growing. But no longer in all parts of the world. Especially young users in the US are turning away.

Is Facebook losing its young users? Mark Zuckerberg at a presentation. Image: ap

BERLIN taz | Facebook has a problem: it's growing. There are already over a billion users worldwide. But now young users in the US are migrating from the countryside as the network ages. Is Facebook suddenly uncool?

Current figures from the Internet analysis company Socialbakers on the worldwide use of Facebook confirm this suspicion. These show a significant decrease in users in the USA. There alone the number of users has fallen by 3.8 million in the last three months. In Germany, too, almost 300,000 active users said goodbye. For those over 30, however, the number of users is still increasing.

The number of users is often subject to fluctuations, but a trend among younger users can still be seen. This is also confirmed by Stefan Aufenanger, professor of media education at Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz: “Young people want to stay among themselves. When the parents suddenly appear on Facebook, it is very easy to no longer be there yourself. "

In the USA the balance of power has already shifted. In a study at the beginning of the year, the co-founder of the blogging service Posterous, Gary Tan, asked over 1,000 young people between the ages of 13 and 25 about their use of social networks. Surprisingly, the microblogging service Tumblr landed in first place, leaving its major competitor Facebook behind. Images and animated photos are primarily shared on Tumblr.

The end of SchülerVZ

In Germany, however, Facebook is still the front runner. According to the annual JIM study by the media education research association Südwest, 81 percent of German young people are active on Facebook. However, online trends from the USA usually only reach Europe and Germany after a certain delay. It was like that in the time before Facebook, when VZ networks were still number one. "Examples such as student or StudiVZ show how quickly a social network can go downhill," says Stefan Aufenanger.

It was only announced on Wednesday that SchülerVZ will be discontinued on April 30th. But it is also conceivable for Aufenanger that young people in this country are turning their backs on Facebook and turning to other networks. At the moment, however, there are still too few alternatives that have prevailed.

Another reason why young users are increasingly staying away from Facebook is changes in their surfing behavior. The trend is towards smartphones and thus towards more closed groups of friends. "The signs suggest that teenagers and young people are moving away from Facebook and turning to more private news services like Snapchat and WhatsApp," writes Parmy Olsen in an article for the US business magazine Forbes.

These apps have made classic SMS on the mobile all-rounders virtually obsolete. The recent rumors about a possible takeover of WhatsApp by Google also show how important such services are. The purchase price should be a nine-digit dollar amount.

"Young people develop an awareness of their data"

For Stefan Aufenanger the success of WhatsApp and Co. lies in the fast and direct communication. In addition, the contacts are much more familiar than on Facebook, where it is customary to be "friends" even with loose acquaintances. The picture messaging service Snapchat automatically deletes the sent pictures after viewing them for ten seconds at the latest.

With the built-in self-destruction mechanism, the service positions itself against Facebook, which still has the image of a data octopus. Aufenanger says: “Young people develop an awareness of their data.” According to the JIM study, 87 percent of young people in Germany protect their data in online communities through privacy settings.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally presented Facebook's challenge to the mobile sector last Thursday. For a long time there was speculation about a possible Facebook phone. The US Internet company's answer is a Facebook-optimized version of Google's Android operating system. Facebook Home is supposed to provide a simpler and less complicated way to get in touch with your "friends" via smartphone.

Stefan Aufenanger is convinced that social networks and their mobile use will continue to play a major role. “In the future, however, social networks will be much more target group-oriented,” he says. This can already be seen today in the success of services such as the Pinterest online pin board or the Waze mobile navigation network for sharing the best travel options.

With its billion users, Facebook is the opposite of target group-oriented. The door is still open to everyone. Soon the last old man will also be online. No wonder that the younger ones are drawn elsewhere.