Who Cares If Facebook Becomes A Teenage Wasteland?

So last night, minutes after the Boston Red Sox had handily defeated the St. Louis Cardinals, my husband went on Facebook, and saw a status update from our son – the kid whose profile picture is of him sitting on a couch (in real life!) with World Series MVP David Ortiz. And it proclaimed, “2013 WORLD CHAMPION BOSTON RED SOX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.”

My husband then turned to me and asked the central question concerning modern-day Facebook usage: “Should I ‘Like’ it?”

I advised him not to. Nothing spoils a teenager’s World Series ecstasy faster than a father “Liking” his post about it. And that, friends – Facebook or not – helps explain why Facebook stock rode highs and lows yesterday upon release of its third quarter earnings. The highs ($55/share) were caused by news of the revenue surge, and a rise in mobile ads from 14% of revenue to 49% today; the lows (back down into the low-to-mid 40s), came after the admission – though, c’mon, we kind of knew this – that engagement on Facebook is down among teens, which CFO David Ebersman nonetheless said was “of questionable statistical significance.” (Maybe the kids had a lot of exams during their first few months? After all, those Common Core learning standards are a bitch!)

But, seriously, if you’re an investor – or an advertiser – how much should you worry about this? Not much I’d say, because – despite advertisers’ ongoing love affair with youth – teens are way, way overrated. And I say that as the mother of a wonderful one.

The truth is that people in marketing have been conditioned for decades to follow the Holy Grail of youth, and when we see a reason to doubt what we know about younger demographics, we inevitably freak out. You may think that, in the context of Facebook, all you need do is look at is the fate of other platforms that lost their e-cool – Myspace and Yahoo, specifically – and see the writing on the wall for Facebook.

But the comparisons run out of steam fairly soon, if you care to look beneath the surface. First, with the exception of Google, which is a completely different beast, Facebook is the stickiest online property of all time, in overall engagement, reach, and, most importantly, interconnectedness.  Remember that Myspace, at its peak, had about 125 million users, while Facebook now has almost 1.2 billion.

As if to prove my point, it just so happens that a high school friend posted yesterday about whether she should de-block, de-friend or entirely de-Facebook to get some annoying people out of her feed. The discussion that has followed her post consists of people either urging her to stay on Facebook, or telling her various workarounds within Facebook that will make her experience on the platform more enjoyable. No one, but no one, is urging her to jump ship, because where else would everyone go? Snapchat?

We are not young, but if that’s a problem, it’s a problem with our fixation on youth, not with Facebook. In case you haven’t noticed lately, Facebook has been skewing older for a while now. Older people have more money to buy stuff – and for Facebook, that’s a good thing.

2 comments about "Who Cares If Facebook Becomes A Teenage Wasteland? ".
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  1. George Parker from Parker Consultants, October 31, 2013 at 6:21 p.m.

    Every teenager I know is either broke, or works at McDonald's (Same thing.) It's old geezers like me that have all the money. Speaking of old geezers with money, never forget, The Wizened of OZ blew $600 million on MySpace. When he bought it everyone thought he was a genius, even Wendi... Now she's fallen out of love with him. Be careful what social media can do to you!
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  2. Matthew Kessler from Vox Media, November 6, 2013 at 2:43 p.m.

    "Nothing spoils a teenager’s World Series ecstasy faster than a father 'Liking' his post about it."
    I'm about a half-dozen years removed from my teenage years, and I'm quite sure I would have been glad my dad liked such a post (if he actually had Facebook), in the case the Mets had defeated the Cardinals in the 2006 NLCS in and subsequently won the World Series. After all, it's from my dad that I inherited my passion for the Amazin's and baseball in general. From countless games at Shea and Citi to Spring Training in Florida to a trip to Cooperstown to a weekend trip just this past summer to Baltimore and DC for the Orioles and Nats, it still is one of the most quintessential American father-son experiences.

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