Oct 28, 2013

    Why teenagers are ditching FB for Twitter

    WE KNOW a lot about teenagers online.

    They love emojis. They love GIFs. And they love taking selfies.

    While we know all these about today's teenagers, pinning down where they want to share this content is much more difficult. Teenagers, it seems, are incredibly fickle with the social networks they want to become B.F.F. - best friends forever - with.

    Last year, reports consistently found that teenagers were not very interested in Twitter and, instead, were unhealthily addicted to Facebook.

    Now, that seems to be flipping.

    As Ms Bianca Bosker of The Huffington Post wrote on Wednesday, asset-management firm Piper Jaffray's semi-annual report on the habits of United States teens, released this month, suggests that teenagers are now abandoning Facebook in lieu of Twitter.

    Researchers surveyed 8,650 teens with an average age of 16 and found that only 23 per cent now see Facebook as an important website, down from 33 per cent six months ago, and 42 per cent last year.

    But Facebook doesn't have too much to worry about.

    While 16-year-olds might be abandoning the site, they are not travelling too far. Many are continuing to take their smartphone selfies and pictures of sunsets to Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

    But why leave Facebook for its younger, less popular sister site?

    Another report from Pew Research, published this year, said that teens were flocking to Instagram and Twitter because they found it easier to be open and expressive, which they said was more difficult on Facebook.

    "Teens who used sites like Twitter and Instagram reported feeling like they could better express themselves on these platforms, where they felt freed from the social expectations and constraints of Facebook," the report said.

    The Pew report said that Twitter had "grown significantly" last year, with 24 per cent of teens now using the service, up from 16 per cent in 2011.

    But all of this doesn't really mean much. Remember the social network MySpace? Well if you do, most teenagers today don't.

    A 2006 survey by Pew Research found that 85 per cent of teenagers had a MySpace account. Today, only 7 per cent of teens maintain an account there.

    Often, companies like Facebook and Twitter are caught in a conundrum of trying to increase the number of users on their services. In doing so - by inviting parents to join - it deters teenagers, who don't want to be seen socialising online with a bunch of stuffy old people.

    Or, as it was best summed up by a teenager interviewed in the Pew report: "Yeah, that's why we go on Twitter and Instagram (instead of Facebook). My mum doesn't use those."