Is Facebook dying or are social media morphing?
It seems that the use of Facebook by teenagers decreases faster among rich teenagers in the US.
For years, the size and influence of Facebook increased at an amazing rate. But some recent studies indicate that its strength may be declining.
The number of Facebook users continues to increase steadily as more people connect in the developing world.
In the US, two out of every three adults use Facebook, but that figure has not changed in the last two years.
In particular, the number of American teenagers who use Facebook is decreasing.
According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of American teens on the Internet used Facebook in 2015. Now, only half say they do.
Among those who continue to do so, a growing part seems to try to minimize the use of Facebook, although its use of other social networking platforms, such as Instagram, seems to increase.
As a researcher studying the digital division, “I am concerned about how the use of Internet varies from one group to another and whether these differences have important consequences for society.
What is changing the game?
Facebook raises a lot of concerns: it is addictive, it collects and distributes too much personal data and encourages envy and depression.
It is understandable that some see with joy the prospect of Facebook taking its due. But as with any change in behavior, there will be some who win and some who lose.
The abandonment of Facebook and the move to other social networks is important because each service allows or encourages its users to do different things.
Facebook offers a wide range of data types that can be shared, such as links, text, photos, videos and more, and fulfills a large number of functions.
It is often used for simple interpersonal communication, but it is also useful for creating discussion groups, sharing news and organizing events.
Despite the controversy over Facebook’s role in spreading fake news, the platform plays an important role in making young people aware of the news.
There is evidence that those who use social networks to inform themselves are more likely to be politically active.
On the contrary, Instagram and Snapchat mainly focus on sharing images.
On these platforms it is not easy to share text or links or encourage debate.
Although news and current events are included in their services, they do not play an important role.
Who is really abandoning Facebook and who is not?
It seems that the use of Facebook by teenagers decreases faster among rich teenagers in the US, and is being replaced by other social networking services such as Snapchat and Instagram.
Although we do not really know the reason, the change in class-based communication patterns raises questions about its more general social consequences.
If we take into account all the possible positive aspects of the use of Facebook compared with other social network tools, it has a broader range of tools and expression functions.
Facebook keeps acquaintances in contact with each other, helps create networks of informal contacts and allows the organization of political and social groups.
As wealthy teenagers leave Facebook, they will no longer have those tools.
On the other hand, if those rich teenagers are those who will exercise power and influence in the future, and leave Facebook, it may be another way of fragmenting society because those with more money are going to look for more exclusive ways to make contacts.
Facebook’s algorithms tend to show users primarily the lives and interests of those closest to them, but it also allows them to receive information from time to time about the lives of other, more distant friends.
The rich may lose a way of knowing something about the lives of the less fortunate.
Are images and videos the new text?
It is also worth analyzing the more general social and educational consequences of not sharing text and sharing images and videos.
When the Internet was adopted for the first time in a generalized manner, e-mails and online discussion forums were based largely on text and fostered everyday knowledge. However, the amount of text that is used in communication on the Internet has decreased little by little.
For example, a normal tweet is about 50 characters long, and although Facebook offers different ways to interact, posting video clips increases the chances of others seeing it, which encourages text abandonment.
Naturally, the production of good quality images and videos requires having knowledge and skills for them to be effective means of communication for political and social change. However, it is possible that abandoning text has an unexpected side effect: the loss of influence of poor users on social networks.
Early researchers thought that text-based communication over the Internet would allow those with a lower social status to participate in discussions and discussions on a more equal footing, because readers could not judge participants for their gender, race or social class.
Now, of course, social media profiles give readers clues about race and gender or other social clues, which reduces this effect, but text-based messages can still overcome social barriers more effectively than video.
It is also important to consider how easy it is to generate messages designed to have a social impact using different media.
It is easy to create a basic video message with a smartphone, but it may require more learning and more expensive devices if you want to use editing techniques, lighting, sound design and other persuasive techniques.
It is much more difficult to hide the indicators of social status such as gender, race and class in the video than in the text, which makes it easier for those who discriminate, both consciously and unconsciously, to ignore or downplay to video messages.
Video techniques and tools may be available to everyone, but this carries the risk of creating a social media environment centered on video in which people mainly share videos and photos for rough interpersonal conversations.
This trend could cause commercial forces and the more affluent to dominate the public sphere of video on the Internet.
Educators can help young people understand social networks and learn to use them better.
Experts, educators and legislators have a hard time keeping up with the changing behavior of people on the Internet.
As social networks have become one of the most important ways for people to communicate with each other and with the world, people will need to discuss the possible changes in the way they influence balance of power between social groups.
Instead of debating whether social networks are good or bad, one of the fundamental questions to be asked is how different groups use social networks differently and how those differences affect society.
Luis Miranda is an award-winning journalist and the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda News. His career spans over 20 years and almost every form of news media. He writes about environmentalism, geopolitics, globalisation, health, corporate control of government, immigration and banking cartels. Luis has worked as a news reporter, On-air personality for Live news programs, script writer, producer and co-producer on broadcast news.