This year marked the start of what looks likely to be a sustained decline of what had been the most pervasive of all social networking sites. Young people are turning away in their droves and adopting other social networks instead, while the worst people of all, their parents, continue to use the service.
As part of a European Union-funded study on social media, we are running nine simultaneous 15-month ethnographic studies in eight countries. What we’ve learned from working with 16-18 year olds in the UK is that Facebook is not just on the slide, it is basically dead and buried. Mostly they feel embarrassed even to be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives. Parents have worked out how to use the site and see it as a way for the family to remain connected. In response, the young are moving on to cooler things.
Instead, four new contenders for the crown have emerged: Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. This teaches us a number of important lessons about winning the app war.
Slick isn’t always bestIt’s worth noting that the sites and apps that have stolen the hearts of Facebook exiles are no match for it in terms of functionality. Most of the school children in our survey recognised that in many ways, Facebook is technically better than Twitter or Instagram. It is more integrated, better for photo albums, organising parties and more effective for observing people’s relationships.
None of these four have the range of integrated functions found on Facebook. WhatsApp is better for messaging and is now said to have overtaken Facebook as the number one way to send mobile messages. But it doesn’t begin to compare as an overall social network site. Neither can the others. This suggests that the dynamics of new media may depend on factors other than function.
Who’s watching you? Who cares?Many in journalism and elsewhere wanted Facebook to fall. As Facebook became a behemoth, it started to be seen by some as an evil data corporation that represented global neo-liberal capitalism. The company has long been accused of hoovering up your user data and giving advertisers access to it. This year, concern over this type of activity reached an all time high, when it became clear that the NSA was accessing Facebook information.
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By Daniel Miller | The Conversation