The Pew Research Center has found that US teens’ use of Facebook has fallen off a cliff.

Pew’s report shows that just 32% of teens include Facebook  in their social media usage. That compares to 71% in the last survey conducted by the researchers in 2014-2015.

Back then Facebook was used more than Snapchat and Instagram, but not any more.

While the survey found that a majority of teens use YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, the share of teens who use Facebook dropped sharply, and correlates wit the rise of TikTok.

Pew Research Center’s Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022 survey of 13-17-year-olds was conducted in April-May this year.

Social media wars – Facebook a loser, TikTok a winner

Pew asked US teens if they ever used any one of a list of top social network apps.

YouTube came top at 95%, followed by TikTok on 67%, Instagram not far behind on 62%, Snapchat 59% and Facebook on 32%. Twitter and Twitch came in at 23% and 20% respectively, with WhatsApp on 17%, Reddit on 14% and Tumblr at 5%.

YouTube was the only “social media” that received a near 100% score but it is important to appreciate that interaction with the service is largely limited to watching videos, and often those videos are “watched” in order to listen to the audio – so it is used as something akin to a radio service.

Still, around a fifth of US teens visit or use YouTube ‘almost constantly’, the survey found. As far as Facebook goes only 2% said the same, in another sign of the social network’s fading appeal for teens.

Facebook is seen as a boring utility rather than a vibrant space to hangout

When it comes to Facebook there is mounting evidence that teens tend to see Facebook as a place you have to be but not somewhere you have fun or necessarily want to be.

In that sense Facebook could be viewed as more of a utility than say TikTok or Instagram, where teens are more likely to be interacted directly with their peers and generating content.

Indeed Pew’s 2013 report on teen social media usage said exactly that – so those tendencies are likely to have become even more firmly embedded.

“While Facebook is still deeply integrated in teens’ everyday lives, it is sometimes seen as a utility and an obligation rather than an exciting new platform that teens can claim as their own,” Pew’s 2013 report stated.

The findings match those of Meta, the owners of Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. Facebook internal research from 2019 showed it was losing teens.

‘Facebook is for old people’ will be hard perception to shake off

Clearly, losing its hold on the adult consumers of the future is a huge problem for Facebook and there doesn’t seem to be any easy way it comes back from being perceived by younger people – not just teens – as being a place where your parents and/or older people hang out.

And in their own right, teens are a hugely important demographic as the drivers of new trends and tastes and, as digital natives, being among the most active users of any cohort.

But it is far from game over for Mark Zuckerberg and Meta because it does after all own Insta and Whatsapp.

However, it is already running into difficulties trying to emulate TikTok, as witnessed in the recent Instagram user backlash against its imposition of AI on feeds.

pwe research center teen social media survey

Girls more engaged with TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat than boys

Digging deeper into the data, girls are more likely to use TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat than boys. On the other hand teen boys are more likely to use Twitch, Reddit and YouTube – which could be to some extent explained by videogaming’s stronger footprint among young males

In other findings, Black teens are more likely to be strongly engaged TikTok users compared with White and Hispanic teens.

Not surprisingly perhaps, 54% of teens say they would find it difficult to give up social media, with older teens the most likely to find it hard to give up on.

Also compared with 2014-15 when the figure was 73%, today neatly 100% of teens have access to a smartphone.

Teens who live in lower-income homes are less likely to have a computer or gaming console
Altogether half of teens say they use the internet ‘almost constantly’.

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