It is a bitter and eternal truth that each new generation of teenagers must eventually face: as soon as they find a place to communicate freely away from the prying eyes of toxically lame old people – meaning everyone over the age of, say, 22 – those same wretched derelicts start gravitating to it too, as if in search of their own irretrievable youth. Then the teens go somewhere else, and then it happens again.
It happened with MySpace, it happened with Facebook, and now it’s happening with Snapchat, according to the Wall Street Journal (and I think it’s safe to say that if you read about it in the WSJ, the battle is already lost). One devastated teen interviewed by the WSJ confides: “It’s kind of shocking. Most people who use Snapchat are in my generation, so it’s bizarre to see someone older use Snapchat.”
According to comScore figures cited by WSJ, 38% of smartphone users ages 25-34 are on Snapchat, which they somehow manage to use despite their advancing senility; that compares with 69% of smartphone users ages 18-24. Some of the telltale signs of an adult invasion are recognizable from previous influxes to other platforms, including those dumbed-down “how to” guides for old people whose phones aren’t networked directly into their cerebral cortex.
The WSJ notes that, as always, the changing demographic profile presents a potential threat if teens start heading elsewhere or marketers think the platform has lost its cool cachet. At the same time, getting adults to start using Snapchat is the key to achieving the huge scale that makes advertising profitable. So Snapchat has to achieve a fine balance, adding older users without driving off teens.
The good news is that it seems to be possible, as Facebook has achieved just that. While there have been a lot of talk (including in this space) about the alleged demise of Facebook among younger folks, the fact is most teens still have accounts and check them regularly, even if they don’t consider it their “favorite” or “most useful” social app – and yes, the presence of adults probably has something do with that demotion.
Furthermore, with its intrinsically private and ephemeral format Snapchat has a big advantage over Facebook, with its semi-public character: teens can go on using the channel away from adult scrutiny if they wish, maintaining something of its clandestine appeal. But maybe just knowing that there are grizzled 30-somethings culturally adjacent is enough to ruin it.