May The Best Social Media Win

by Novi Zhukovsky | 10/24/18 2:25am

Lately, I have noticed a distressing trend: my mom receives more likes on Facebook than I do.

Whether she’s posting pictures of her daughters in college, images of her rooftop garden in New York City, snaps of ballet performances or even her own magazine articles, most of her posts are followed by enthusiastic likes and comments from her doting friends. When I pointed out her Facebook popularity, she brushed me off and claimed that it’s normal — all of her friends do it.

But what does this mean? Is my mom just a hyper-social Facebook chameleon who’s more popular than me, or is the social demographic of Facebook changing?

Mom, I’m sorry, but I think it’s the latter.

According to several studies reported in the Huffington Post, teenagers and millennials have begun to shift their social media usage from Facebook to Instagram and Snapchat. In fact, between the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013, teenagers reporting Facebook as their most important social networking site fell from 42 percent to 23 percent, while Instagram rose from 12 percent to 30 percent. This shift in popularity shows that teens use Facebook less — meaning they are logging in fewer times and maintaining shorter periods of use. Moreover, while Facebook has become less desirable among young people, a recent surge in users age 55 to 65 has made middle-aged adults the second most represented demographic on the site.

This social media shift has become apparent on the Dartmouth campus, too.

Grace Rubin ’22 noticed a shift in who was posting more often to her feed.

“When I go on Facebook, most of the photos that I see are not from kids,” she said. “Or if they are, they’re not from Dartmouth students, they’re from people back home who still use Facebook. It’s a lot of my parents’ friends. And their posts are still really amusing to look at, but the ratio of adult posts to posts of people my age is pretty high. On Instagram, I don’t follow any of my friends’ parents, but I do on Facebook.”

Maddie Doerr ’22, also noticed that older people used the site more than her peers. Doerr explains the only reason she even made a Facebook page was to find a roommate.

“A lot of my friends who had just picked out roommates said that it was a really useful tool in finding their roommates, and they told me I should start building a profile in case I went to a school where you would pick out your roommate,” Doerr said.

Like Rubin, Doerr views Instagram and Snapchat as her social media platforms of choice.

“I would say I use Instagram the most for social media posting, but Snapchat for conversation,” Doerr said. “I think that students at Dartmouth use Instagram the most because we have such a pretty campus, people want to show it off by posting a picture.”

Cadyn Davis ’21 actually decided to delete her profile on both Instagram and Snapchat after finding herself becoming too dependent on the social media platforms. In fact, she only created accounts on both of the apps during her freshman year at Dartmouth because she didn’t want to be left out, and was quickly drawn in. Cadyn decided to keep her Facebook, however, because she did not feel the same compulsion to stay updated on the site as she did on the other two apps.

“I don’t have the same mentality about Facebook that I do for Instagram or Snapchat,” Davis said. “It’s not as big of a deal in my life, so I kept it. I think that Instagram and Snapchat are more instantaneous platforms, especially Snapchat where you record things as they happen and immediately post it. With Facebook, people just update their friends on what they’ve been doing, so the other platforms take you out of the moment more,” Davis said.

For Rubin and Doerr, Facebook’s recent public relations scandals regarding security breaches and interference from Russian hackers are not the factor deterring teens and college students from the site, but rather, a representation of the given risk of using any form of social media.

“I don’t really have anything to hide,” Rubin said. “The hack doesn’t bother me that much.”

Doerr is also not concerned about the hack, though she feels that people should be judicious in selecting content to share.

So, what is the real reason teens are flocking away from the formerly booming platform? Wasn’t Facebook created for college students?

For Rubin, it’s all about demographics. She explains that most people are most active on Instagram, and therefore is the first place she goes to see photos of her peers.

“If another app, say Myspace, was where people were posting, I probably would go there,” Rubin said. “It’s not about the app itself for me — it’s just where I can see my friends’ photos. Instagram is definitely used the most often here from what I’ve seen.”

Facebook’s recent influx of older users has overwhelmed the youth presence on the site, leaving many to turn to Instagram or Snapchat instead. After all, who really wants to see their parents’ posts while scrolling through their feed?

Although outlier Davis also considers Facebook an aging platform, that fact actually increases the appeal for her.

“I think Facebook is for older people, and I see a lot of my parents’ friends and that sort of thing. But that’s why I keep it, because those are the people from home I want to connect with,” Davis said.

Davis thinks that although adults have begun to dominate Facebook, she does not see them moving to Instagram or Snapchat anytime soon. She thinks that these platforms are about “all about showing off these colorful, glamorous photos of my life and my body.”

“It’s like a competition,” Davis said. “I just don’t think that adults have that same level of glamour or fun or activity in their lives, and that’s what Instagram is trying to showcase. Instagram is more curated, and people take it so seriously. They care about the theme of their feed or the vibe they want to give off. People don’t have a specific vibe or theme on Facebook.”

And despite the fact that Facebook was originally the social media platform for college students, the young adults of today are more interested in flashy images and perfected profiles. According to Davis, there is a hightened sense of competition in regard to physical beauty.

“Now there’s more competition of beauty and glamor publicly. Facebook maybe started that when it was first created, but then Instagram jumped off of it and made it adaptable to the 21st century,” Davis said, “People now are more attracted to visuals, so Instagram catered to that more than Facebook. Instagram is just an extension of what Facebook started.”

Whether it’s the appeal of showy lifestyle curation and instant communication, or the desire to move out of our parents’ extended living rooms, it looks like Facebook is out and Instagram and Snapchat are in. And until our parents invade Snapchat and Instagram, or we tire of all the posing, Instagram and Snapchat will continue to reign on Dartmouth’s campus and among teens and college students.

And maybe one day, when we are older, we will revisit our once abandoned, now newly relevant Facebook pages, and wonder at the confusing new apps with which our children are wasting their time. But one thing’s for sure: nothing stands still when it comes to social media.

“I think it’s a very fluid process. In early high school, my friends and I were really into Twitter, and so Instagram kind of faded out, but now it’s come back around, and we don’t really go on Twitter anymore,” Doerr said.

Last night, my mom, out of the blue, added me on Snapchat.