How teens use Facebook: Trends in Social Networking


How are the teens doing it now? Pretty differently, when it comes to Facebook. Talking to a teenager the other day, I was surprised to find that how she used Facebook was significantly different from how me and my mid-to-late twenties friends use it.

I didn’t think there would have been that much of a difference in a ten year age gap – but looks like there is. And given that this is the biggest social network in the world – that’s probably worth paying attention to – most of us have a stake in how the next generation behave.

Of course this is a generalisation based on some personal observations, but I think there are valid and useful lessons to be learned.

How Generation Z use Facebook – key features:

She thought how we used Facebook was quite boring, I thought how they used Facebook was hyper and a bit spammy.

a) Lots of friends
The younger generation seem to be indiscriminate about adding people and have friend counts in the 1000+
Generation Y (20+): I’d be quite cautious about who I add and wouldn’t add people I didn’t know.

b) Life-casting
Everything goes on Facebook – breakfast, mid-morning pictures – they use it a lot more like Twitter with daily random updates. It’s also much more personal and of course reflects the concerns of the teenager – what their mum said, etc.
Generation Y (20+): I’d puzzle over a good status update, and would self-censor over stuff on Facebook.

c) Lots of photos
Lots of photo all the time – and they’re wall photos, not albums. And it’s pictures of lunch, and of themselves, not just pictures of your sister’s wedding.
Generation Y (20+): I remember sitting down, painstakingly uploading pictures from my digital camera, thinking of album names and writing witty captions for each one. Now though albums are a bit redundant and people tend just to post pictures on their walls.

d) More videos, more links
Mostly shared videos from youtube, but this is another striking difference.
Generation Y (20+): I do this a lot now, but we didn’t really do this so much in the past.

e) Profile Write-ups
Now these are just a few phrases and a links to Facebook pages.
Generation Y (20+): These used to be lovingly-created long-form written masterpieces..

For younger generation, Facebook is not a place to store stuff – it’s not your mantelpiece – it’s a conversation or a stream. I’d say that’s down to tweaks in the format of Facebook in the past 7 years – The News Feed for example (I remember when that was introduced) is now central to the whole experience and the fact that status updates no longer sit at the top of your profile page, the way they once did. The friends filter plays a key role too – it allows people to deal with the hosepipe of updates by thinning it down to the ones they are actually interested in, which means we can deal with the over-sharers.

It’s also down to smartphones with cameras and Facebook access. It’s much easier to update Facebook on the bus, so that encourages more posts.

The older generation is still in the mindset of the early Facebook, and still views it a little bit like how it was in the early 2000s.. It’s fair to say that the younger generation is much more visual and that pictures and comments on pictures are a big deal.

Related: What the Facebook wall would look like in real life.

Anna Leach


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