Facebook may not be headed for the dramatic collapse predicted in a much-discussed study from grad students at Princeton’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering — which drew a snide rebuke from the Harvard cabal at Facebook — but there’s still reason for concern.
A recent survey by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz, Inc. found that roughly one in three (30%) Facebook users believe they will be using the service less within the next five years. Within this group, 40% say they use Twitter, while Instagram is also growing fast, especially among millennials. However millennials and non-millennials were equally likely to say they will use Facebook less.
Jeffrey Cole, one of the lead researchers at the Annenberg School, accurately predicted (back in 2005) that MySpace had lost its “cool” factor and was headed for decline. In 2010, he predicted Facebook would continue growing for another five years, but begin to lose market share among young adults to new social platforms.
Cole steered clear of the doom and gloom in the Princeton study, noting that Facebook’s user base is still large and growing. Instead, it will just become, well, boring: “Facebook will become the phone directory for the planet. Young users will to go to Facebook as the place where they communicate with their families, and as the site where they search for someone. Then users will move that relationship to a smaller online community, such as a microblog.”
As noted, this isn’t the only study suggesting Facebook may be losing younger users.
In January, iStrategyLabs, drawing on data from Facebook’s social advertising platform, found that the number of Americans ages 13-17 using Facebook declined 25.3% from 13.1 million in January 2011 to 9.8 million in January 2014, while the number of users ages 18-24 declined 7.5% from 45.4 million to 42 million over the same period.