Facebook is fighting for relevance as Gen Z turns away

Facebook says it is not dead. Facebook also wants you to know that it’s not just for “old people,” as young people have been saying for years.

Now, with the biggest thorn in its side – TikTok – is facing increased government scrutiny Amid growing tensions between the US and China, Facebook can, perhaps, position itself as a viable, domestic-bred alternative.

There’s just one problem: young adults like Devin Walsh have moved on.

“I can’t remember the last time I logged in. It could have been years ago,” said Walsh, 24, who lives in Manhattan and works in public relations.

Instead, he checks Instagram, which is also owned by Facebook parent company Meta, about five or six times a day. Then there’s TikTok, of course, where he spends about an hour each day scrolling, allowing the algorithm to find things that “I didn’t know I was interested in.”

Walsh couldn’t imagine a world where Facebookwhich he joined when he was in grade 6, became a regular part of his life again.

“This is branding, right? When I think of Facebook, I think ugh, like cheugy, old people, like parents posting pictures of their kids, random status updates and also people who -fight about political issues,” Walsh said, using the Gen Z term for things that are definitely not. cold.

The once-cool social media platform that was born before the iPhone is approaching two decades of existence. For those who were old enough when Mark Zuckerberg launched facebook.com from his Harvard dorm room in 2004, it was inseparable from everyday life – even if it faded into the background over the years.

Facebook faces a unique challenge. Today, 3 billion people check it every month. That’s more than a third of the world’s population. And 2 billion logins per day. Yet it still finds itself in a battle for relevance, and its future, after two decades of existence.

For the younger generation — those enrolled in middle school, or those currently in middle school, this is not really the place to be. Without this trend-setting demographic, Facebook, still the main source of income for parent company Meta, risks fading into the background – utilitarian but boring, like email.

It wasn’t always like this. For nearly a decade, Facebook has been the place to be, the cultural touchstone, the thing constantly referenced in daily conversations and late-night TV, its establishment even the subject of a Hollywood movie. Rival MySpace, launched just a year earlier, quickly became outdated as the cool kids flocked to Facebook. It didn’t help MySpace’s fortunes that it was sold to the stodgy old News Corp. in 2005.

“It was this weird combination…no one knew how the technology worked, but to have a MySpace, we all had to be mini coders. It was very stressful.” said Moira Gaynor, 28. “Maybe that’s what Facebook is all about. Because compared to MySpace it’s a beautiful, unified, beautiful place to be together that we didn’t have before and we really wanted after struggling on MySpace for a long time.

Positioning himself as a visionary, Zuckerberg refused to sell Facebook and pushed his company through the mobile revolution. While some rivals have emerged — remember Orkut? – they have mostly stopped while Facebook has soared, seemingly unstoppable despite user privacy scandals and a failure to respond to hate speech and misinformation. It reached one billion daily users in 2015.

Debra Aho Williamson, an Insider Intelligence analyst who has followed Facebook since its early days, says the site’s younger users are declining but doesn’t see Facebook going anywhere, at least not yet. soon.

“The fact that we’re talking about Facebook that’s 20 years old, I think that’s a testament to what Mark developed when he was in college. It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s still going strong.” worldwide platform.”

AOL used to be powerful too, but its user base has aged and now an aol.com email address is little more than a punchline to a joke about people who are technologically illiterate of a certain age.

Tom Alison, who serves as the head of Facebook (Zuckerberg’s title is now Meta CEO), sounded optimistic when he outlined the platform’s plans to attract young adults in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We used to have a Facebook team focused on youth groups, or maybe a project or two dedicated to generating new ideas,” Alison said. “And about two years ago we said no – our entire product line needs to change and evolve and adapt to the needs of young adults.”

He calls this period of “social discovery.”

“It’s very inspired by what we see the next generation want from social media. The simple way I want to describe it is that we want Facebook to be the place where you can connect with people you know- an, the people you want to know and the people you need to know,” Alison said.

Artificial intelligence is central to this plan. Just as TikTok uses its AI and algorithms to show people videos they didn’t know they wanted to see, Facebook hopes to use its powerful technology to win the hearts and eyeballs of young adults. . Reels, the TikTok-like videos that Facebook and Instagram users are bombarded with when they log into both apps, are also key. And, of course, private messaging.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of people want to share reels, talk about reels, and we’re starting to integrate messaging features back into the app to once again allow Facebook to be a place where not only you will discover great things that are relevant to you. , but you will share and talk about that with people,” said Alison.

Facebook has always refused to disclose user demographics, which would shed some light on how young adults are doing. But outside researchers say their numbers are declining. The same is true for teenagers – although Facebook seems to have backed away from actively recruiting teenagers amid concerns about the effects of social media on their mental health.

“Young people are often shaping the future of communication. I mean, that’s basically how Facebook took off – young people were drawn to it. And we’ve seen that happen with almost every social platform that’s been on the scene since Facebook,” Williamson said. This year, Insider estimates that nearly half of TikTok’s users are between the ages of 12 and 24.

Williamson doesn’t see this trend changing, but notes Insider’s estimates only go as far as 2026. There is a decline, but it’s slow. That year, the research company expects about 28% of Facebook users in the US to be between 18 and 34 years old, compared to about 46% for TikTok and 42% for Instagram. The numbers are even clearer for teenagers aged 12-17.

“I think the best they can do is move away from being a social platform. They seem to have lost that. But hey, if they want to be the new Yellow Pages, why not?” said Gaynor, who lives in San Diego, California and works in government. “I really like the Marketplace. I recently moved, so that’s where I got most of my furniture.

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