Are Gen Z Using Facebook?
In recent years, Facebook’s user base has shifted; younger people are neglecting to sign in as often or are actively deleting their accounts. Gen Z doesn’t seem interested in joining the platform at all, calling it an “outdated network” with “irrelevant content”. Let’s take a look at Facebook’s rise to social world domination and the subsequent loss of the new generation.
The History of Facebook
Founded on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg and some classmates in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook rapidly became one of the biggest social networking sites in the world. Within the year, the social networking site accrued over 1 million users – which has since grown exponentially to hit over 2 billion in 2018.
The rise of Facebook meant that other social channels such as Bebo and MySpace had to make way, and eventually faded into obscurity as high school and university students jumped onto this new and exciting platform.
Facebook is also known for buying out the competition, with them acquiring rival social media platform Instagram in April of 2012. At the time of its acquisition, Instagram had around 30 million users. WhatsApp was also growing steadily in its percentage of market reach beating out other popular mobile apps. Facebook saw both vulnerability and opportunity in WhatsApp and obtained it for a whopping $19B in 2014. In doing so, the company kept WhatsApp out of the hands of other tech rivals.
The social media giants have also tried to purchase their competitor SnapChat, on more than one occasion, but have been unsuccessful in this.
Are young consumers leaving Facebook?
According to Statista, as of October 2021, the largest percentage of users on Facebook are people aged between 25-34 making up 31.5% of the population. With the global release of Facebook in 2006, users currently in their early 30’s would have been aged between 14 and 19 when Facebook was rising in popularity.
In stark contrast, a mere 5.7% of 13-17-year-olds are currently using the social platform. This can be further evidenced by the recent Facebook Files expose, based on documents leaked by former Facebook staffer Frances Haugen.
The chart below shows daily active users in the US between 2012 and 2020. Users aged 18 to 24 (red) began a steep decline in their daily use of Facebook around 2012 through to 2020, a loss of more than 31% of users in this age bracket. Likewise, those aged 13-17 (bottom blue line) fell from 2012 and they have not been able to recover since.
Crucially, the 18-24 age group entirely consisted of Millenials in 2012 but has gradually shifted towards Gen Z over the course of the last decade. This trend indicates that Gen Z are less interested in using Facebook than older generations.
Where are Gen Z Going?
CEO Mark Zuckerberg aspires to end the youth exodus from his company’s flagship platform, saying that he wants Facebook to make “serving young adults ‘the North Star’.” However, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne is quoted as saying “Our products are still widely used by teens, but we face tough competition from the likes of Snapchat and TikTok.“
In November of 2021, several young people spoke to Insider, stating their reasons for either leaving the social platform or not joining it at all. They said things such as:
- “My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents all use Facebook … I’ve always seen it as a place for older people”
- “The content on Facebook is ‘too random’”
- “I have no idea what Facebook would have to do to make me use it … It just seems like such a Boomer social network.”
In these interviews with young people, they seem to favour alternative sites such as TikTok, Instagram, SnapChat and even sites such as Reddit and YouTube to connect with friends and find interesting content. As of August 2021, almost 53% of creators on TikTok are aged 18-24, with an impressive 19% of creators aged 13-17, showing that young people are gravitating to this (relatively) new platform. Even those younger than 13 are joining the app, making up almost 9% of the total user/creator base.
From this data, we can draw some interesting conclusions.
Facebook has identified that their user demographics are getting older but, so far, seem to have struggled to combat it. Through their ownership of Instagram, Meta are able to maintain some relevance with Gen Z audiences but face strong competition. If Facebook is unable to reverse the migration of younger audiences away from their platform, it will become less appealing to advertisers.
Although Facebook was able to beat its predecessors and become the dominant social media platform of the early 2010s, in doing so it created a vacuum underneath it that allowed new competitors to appear. It may also simply be following a typical pop culture life cycle where younger generations choose their own spaces away from their parents.