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Why does Gen Z hate Facebook? Social network turns 20 with shrinking teen use

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The world’s most popular social network will turn the big 2-0 on Feb. 4. Before Facebook made teens log out in droves, it was one of the most coveted tickets for college students. Here’s a look at why Gen Z has such disdain for the site that inspired the film, “The Social Network.”

When Mark Zuckerberg first launched thefacebook in 2004 as a directory of students at Harvard and it was an instant success. It soon expanded its reach to other Ivy League schools and eventually to most colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. This was mostly before it got wise to drop “the” in its name.

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By 2006, two and a half years after its debut, Facebook became available to anyone aged 13 and older with a valid email address. At the time, Facebook earned roughly $30 million per year in revenue, a relatively small social media fish in a pond dominated by MySpace.

While growing in prominence, it faced legal challenges from Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the twins who claimed they had the initial idea for Facebook.

The company would go on to purchase Instagram and WhatsApp, become a public company, and later change the parent company’s name to Meta, aligning with its newfound focus on the metaverse to leverage their purchase of virtual reality headset maker Oculus.

But how could a social network, created for college students, get the reputation for being generally uncool and for baby boomers?

It doesn’t appear to be a demographic issue. The biggest cohort is men between the ages of 25 and 34, which would fall within the millennial category. True boomers make up around 10% of its user base, but as any regular Facebook user can tell you, boomers tend to make themselves known on the platform.

Facebook may have 3 billion monthly active users, but it struggles to remain relevant with the youth. Still, Generation Z is expected to outnumber baby boomers on Facebook soon, if they haven’t already.

Ten years ago, 71% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 said they used Facebook regularly, according to Pew Research. That number dwindled to 33% in 2023.

Teens, for their part, are flocking to short-form video apps like YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram.

For Meta’s part, the comapany owns Instagram, which is the third-most-used social network in the world. A substantial portion of its users are in the 18 to 34 demographic, even if many of the videos are just reposts from TikTok.

Teens leaving Facebook might not be a bad thing for the company as it’s facing heated criticism for its harmful effects on teens. In recent years, the company stopped efforts to attract teens and is focusing on bringing in young adults to the social network.

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SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

Remember when Facebook was the hot ticket in town? Feel old yet?

Blow out those candles, Facebook, 20 years old on February 4.

Back when Facebook first started, college students clamored for access and you needed an edu address to sign up.

Now most teens wouldn’t be caught dead.

sharday618:
“My daughter just told me that Facebook is literally Snapchat for old people. It is.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

If you’re old enough to go on Facebook memories and cringe at what you used to write in that status bar…

christalluster:
“Christal is living in the moment and planning her future. Girl, what?”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

…you’re not alone.

dustinnickersoncomedy:
“There’s a lot of people I don’t like on the internet, but the person I hate the most is me on Facebook 10 years ago.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

Pushing past the cringe, while Facebook mostly has this reputation these days:

yourbiwitchyaunt:
“Facebook is so uncool. (Gag, Gag, Gag)”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

It’s still a trillion dollar company with more than 3 billion monthly active users. Surprising, right?

chevvycaprice:
“It’s full of nothing but your hometown people. But them nothing but the biggest haters of all.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

Travel back with me for a minute to the dorm rooms in 2004. MySpace and Friendster are just getting the social media movement off the ground. Don’t get me started on the fact that we publicly ranked our friends. “Me at the Zoo,” the first ever YouTube video, wouldn’t be uploaded for another year.

Rumored robot Mark Zuckerberg launched “The Facebook” as an online directory of Harvard students.

Soon they allowed students at other Ivy league schools to join, made a crucial change to the name…

“Drop the ‘The.’ Just Facebook.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

And eventually expanded to all universities in the U.S. and Canada.

Two and a half years after launch, Facebook broke down the wall to anyone 13 and older with an email address.

At the time, Facebook was bringing in about $30 million in revenue a year. And “experts” warned expanding reach the wrong way could give it the reputation of being a “second-rate version of MySpace.”

Facebook would go on to buy Instagram and WhatsApp, launch an IPO, deal with some lawsuits,

“If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

And go through another company name change, now Meta, to align with a shift toward the metaverse.

Through it all, Facebook remains the most popular social media platform in the world.

spiderwomanh:
“Facebook… is… For… Boomers.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

Right… So how did a social network invented for college students get its Boomer reputation?

It’s certainly not because of actual demographics, where the biggest group is men age 25-34. Which, for the record, falls into the millennial category.

True boomers make up maybe a tenth of Facebook’s user base, but they tend to make themselves known.

camquestions:
“There’s 1 reason and 1 reason only I’m still on Facebook. And it’s for the Boomers and the Gammons. They create their own comedy, they’re hilarious.”

blaire_allison:
“And then my dad, every night, tells everyone on Facebook goodnight. Goodnight Facebook friends, going to bed. (laughs)”

space.mermaid.cos:
“For all its faults, there’s nothing like thousands of people coming together to dunk on boomers on Facebook.”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

So maybe you’re here for the entertainment. But 20 years in, Facebook’s struggling with its street cred.

Let’s look at teens age 13 to 17. Ten years ago, 71% of them said they use Facebook. Today, this Pew Research poll shows just 33% use the site.

The reality is, teens are are flocking to short-form video apps, whether it’s YouTube at 93 percent, TikTok at 63 percent, Snap at 60, or Instagram at 59.

Good news for Meta, they own Instagram, the third-most-used social network on the planet. And a substantial chunk of those users are 18 to 34, even if it is mostly just videos from TikTok.

Gareth gets it.

It was probably initially concerning for Facebook to see teenage use drop off a cliff. But with all the heat it gets for harmful content for teens,

“There’s families of victims here today. Have you apologized to the victims? Would you like to do so now?”

SIMONE DEL ROSARIO:

Facebook is now purposefully focusing on young adults instead.

And I’ve got news for you, Gen Z. Your generation is expected to soon outnumber Boomers on Facebook, if you haven’t already.