Teens are no longer using Facebook, writes frighteningly precocious 13-year-old Ruby Karp in Mashable today. Facebook is "just a thing all our parents seem to have.... I occasionally get wall posts like, 'Hello sweetie pie!'" She adds, "Teens are naturally followers. If all my friends are getting this cool new thing called Snapchat, I want it, too! We want what’s trending, and if Facebook isn’t 'trending,' teens won’t care."
Ruby is 13. She's writing from a naturally limited worldview and can only reasonably express what she's seeing among her group of friends, who don't necessarily represent the country's other 13-year-olds. (At 13, I probably would have chosen to focus my op-ed on either Nomar Garciaparra or Kirsten Dunst. Because, at 13, few other things mattered.)
But what Ruby is expressing is something that many of us have thought at one point or the other: As it ages, Facebook has become less a useful social connector and more a begrudging social necessity, a tool that no one necessarily likes, but more feels obligated to use in order to rack up those birthday wall posts and Farmville invites. Ruby writes that at age 7 (!), Facebook seemed like an exclusive club. An exclusivity which is now found in Snapchat and Instagram. "In the end, Facebook has been trying too hard. Teens hate it when people try too hard; it pushes them away. It’s like if my mom told me not to do something—I immediately need to do it. When she forces something on me, I really don’t want to do it," she says.
What Ruby is saying shouldn't be totally disregarded—like her peers disregarded Ashton Kutcher's kind of terrific life advice at the Teen Choice Awards last night. Anyone who has been a member of Facebook for at least five years feels the same stresses. It's no fun anymore.
Facebook began as an online diversion, created by a drunken Mark Zuckerberg in an attempt to create a Harvard Hot or Not. The underpinnings of that attempt—namely, a focus on sex and hooking up—lay prominently in the early years of Facebook. It was a college social network that allowed you to "poke" girls you wanted to sleep with, and to tell your classmates if you were looking for a "random play" or "whatever you could get." It was all mischievous and fun. And The Social Network correctly identified the root of the fun: Exclusivity.
That fun is now gone. Employer surveillance, awkward social encounters, and the fucking NSA monitoring your data tends to be a bit of a buzzkill. But anyone who has been on something for 5+ years feels a reasonable apprehension about leaving. Look at all of my friends I've collected! I've been here since high school! My life is here!
Kids like Ruby don't have that issue. And they're choosing to just... not join at all. More teens now use Tumblr than Facebook. Ruby and her friends all have Instagram accounts. They talk to each other through goofy Snapchats. They've found networks that can take Facebook's place. Which must scare the living shit out of Zuck.