There’s a common perception among marketing types that all Millennials are all over social media all of the time. Hyperventilating headlines feed into the hysteria that the only sure-fire way for brands to effectively reach members of Generation Y is through a bombardment of messaging primarily delivered through a wide swath of social media channels. Turns out the stereotype of selfie-obsessed, share-happy Millennials might be flawed. In fact, recent reports indicate that Millennials have become more discerning about the social channels they prefer to use and a growing number of Gen Y are actually starting to opt out of social media all together.
That’s not to say that (generally speaking) Gen Y isn’t intuitively more social in its media consumption behavior compared to older generations. As digital natives who have been steeped in technology since birth, Millennials are naturally well-versed in the pros and cons of social media and they’re proving themselves to be highly selective and savvy about the social media choices they make, despite some misconceptions (and missteps) to the contrary.
While reports of Facebook’s decline among younger users may have been overly exaggerated, the Book of Faces continues to be an important and relevant outlet to reach much of Gen Y. According to a study by Ipsos, engaged Millennial Facebook users still outnumber Millennial users of Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter by a margin of about three to one. Facebook-owned Instagram comes in second place in terms of active usage among Millennials, but there are notable demographic skews between the various social media channels, for example, with Pinterest users leaning more female and younger Millennials favoring Snapchat.
Despite the impression that Millennials are so totally obsessed with using social media, even in the workplace, a study conducted by Bentley University found that more than half of Gen Y workers prefer face-to-face interactions with their office colleagues over other (i.e., digitally driven) modes of work communications. Further, 66% of Millennial workers surveyed recommended that employers put greater limits on social media usage in the workplace.
So what’s driving some Millennials away from social media? For former-Facebook users, concerns about privacy, trust and security top the list of reasons for walking away from their Facebook feeds, according to an Ipsos/Battery Ventures poll. While less than 10% of former users of Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat cited concerns about privacy, trust and security as motivating factors for leaving, 29% of ex-Facebook users ages 20 to 35 said they gave up Facebook for those reasons.
As Millennials have aged, a new sense of caution may be starting to take hold on their collective, previously over-shared conscience. Or perhaps the desire to lead truer, more-authentic, less-curated lives is leading some Millennials to reconsider their social media presences. When 19-year-old Australian model and blogger Essena O’Neill very publicly gave up on her wildly popular Instagram account in early November, she revealed all of the pain and misery it took to manufacture what was perceived to be a beautifully effortless, aspiration life. O’Neill confessed that the stories and pictures that elevated her to social media superstardom were faked, consequently deleting many of the carefully crafted images she created and re-captioning others to tell the real, often-painful stories behind the beautiful fantasies.
The backlash O’Neill received included accusations that her public announcement to quit social media was yet another ploy to garner even more online attention. But O’Neill said the criticisms only proved her point. In a video confession that went viral, O’Neill said, “We live in a society that rewards this artificial perfectionism. Companies will pay me, brands will want me, people admire you when you take these images. People look up to you and admire you and want to be you … and I think that’s pretty messed up.”
For a growing number of Millennials, the decidedly inauthentic mix of artifice and deception might be making social media much less social these days, and brands and marketers will want to pay attention to what Gen Y has to say about these lies.