Then and Now, Facebook and Us

Young people are leaving Facebook. Will the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg go the way of My Space’s Tom?


By May Warren, staff writer

Janette Zhao doesn’t use Facebook nearly as much as she used to. The first-year Ryerson University student still logs on “daily,” but her general use has declined.

“I have less time and more things to do,” says the early childhood education major. “Before (I became so busy), it was just everywhere,”

Zhao also uses Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, but doesn’t have a favourite. “They all have different uses,” she says.

Zhao is studying to be a teacher. She says she doesn’t see Facebook playing as big of a role in her future professional life and “probably won’t use it as much.”

And she may not be alone.

The Internet has been buzzing with chatter of Facebook’s decline.

February this year, Facebook released its annual report. It saids they are aware some users, particularly younger ones, are engaging with other social media sites. Some are using these sites as replacement for Facebook.

These include sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram and most recently, Snapchat.

The app deletes photos and messages seconds after they are received, so there’s no pesky conversation history to get you in trouble. It’s becoming more popular, especially among teens.

And a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, also released in February, found that 61 per cent of Facebook users report taking a break from the social networking site for a period of several weeks or more. Another 20 per cent of adults online say they have stopped once using the site.

Twitter use has also doubled among teens in the last two years according to another study from the Pew Internet and American Life project released last April.

The survey found that 16 per cent of American teens age 12-17 were using Twitter. That’s double the 8 per cent it was in 2009.

Adrian J. Ebsary, a social media expert based out of Ottawa, says this could be part of a larger trend.

As social media sites become more popular they become less private.

All of the different audiences that people communicate with in their daily lives are folded into one and they don’t know how to navigate this.

Researcher Dayna Boyd has written about this phenomenon. She calls it “context collapse.”

Facebook in particular was once a place for peers only but now everyone from Grandma to ad companies can show up in a typical mini-feed.

Some users react by jumping ship to other social media sites such as Twitter.

For these people “Twitter becomes an escape,” says Ebsary.

“There’s a perceived anonymity of Twitter, because if you have only a few followers it’s possible to Tweet and never receive any interactions,” he continues.

But he says this is ironic, because Twitter is actually more public with fewer privacy controls.

“Your last 3,200 Tweets are accessible and I’m not sure everyone knows that,” he says.

Ebsary says now that Twitter is beginning to become a place where advertisers can reach users. That may cause them to head towards newer applications such as Instagram and Snapchat where the data is less minable, at least for now.

“I think it will be interesting to see if younger audiences will always flee to a newer space, he says

Ebsary says there is a need to “build a walled garden” around social media sites but there’s little incentive for sites to do this because often the end goal is to go public and sell their data.

He cautions people to be aware of the digital footprints they are leaving.

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