Facebook is becoming less and less popular among 13 to 17-year-olds. This is frightening to Zuck and co., because no one uses the Internet more than 13 to 17-year-olds. Think of every bad Tumblr reblog, every Kevin Hart parody account, every one of Justin Bieber's 46 million followers. You can thank teenagers.
In an effort to bring back that teen demo, the company recently eased teenagers' privacy restrictions, allowing them—for the first time ever—to post status updates, videos and images that can be seen by anyone in the world, not just friends or friends of friends. Facebook says the change is no different from what Instagram and Twitter already allow. But on Twitter and Instagram, you're not using your real name and image. Which is a key component of the FB.
From the New York Times last weekend:
“Across the Web, teens can have a very public voice on those services, and it would be a shame if they could not do that on Facebook,” Nicky Jackson Colaco, Facebook’s manager of privacy and public policy, said in a phone interview.
But unlike those other services, Facebook requires users to post under their real identities, which some privacy advocates said would make it much more difficult to run away from stupid or thoughtless remarks.
“It’s risky to have teenagers posting publicly,” Ms. Bazelon said. “The kids who might be the most likely to do that might not have the best judgment about what they post.”
Make no mistake: This isn't about giving teenagers the chance to express themselves: It's about the $$$. No one is more impressionable or likely to overshare than 13 to 17-year-olds, and marketers are jonesing to reach that demographic. The more public information they have, the more targeted the ads are.
But I think it's all a little fucked. Anyone in their 20s is close enough to 15 to remember just how frighteningly dumb we all were at that age. How unwise our decision-making was (because of brains that are still literally developing), and how much more apt we were to say something hurtful or even bigoted. It's not totally fair to create a situation where teenagers can dig their own virtual grave AND etch the headstone with their names. It threatens college admissions. And, later, job prospects.
In a few years, the small parts of your life you're able to actually keep private from the Internet will hold more and more importance. I've said before that I'm at the point where I'm not really sure why any of us still use Facebook. No one professes to find enjoyment in it; it's mainly a source of stress. But it's escalated now from an annoyance to something that can actually cause harm. And that's not great.