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Facebook Loses Students With Growing Older Population

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Senior Anthony Azzun uses WhatsApp to connect with his friends outside of the United States on March 12. 

Social media didn’t make him happy, so he said “enough.” It was a way to kill time, but eventually, as the years went on, he began comparing himself to other people and seeking validation through Facebook likes.

“That really troubled me,” freshman Drew Goodman said. “I don’t think that’s a healthy thing to have in your life.”

So Goodman made a choice. He deleted all of his social media his first semester in college; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Reddit, a social news aggregation that relies on user content. Every social media app on his phone was gone, except Snapchat, which he uses to talk to the majority of his friends, he said.

“I felt like something wasn’t right with [using social media],” Goodman said. “I felt like I was becoming addicted to it.”

Today 69 percent of Americans use social media. Young users are the largest demographic who use social media, but older adults ages 30 to 64 have started to pick up on the trend. The majority of young adults ages 18 to 29, 81 percent, use Facebook. Out of that age demographic, women are more likely to use Facebook than men, with 74 percent of young women saying they use Facebook in comparison to 62 percent of young men, according to the Pew Research Center.

But last quarter, users reduced their time on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours a day, according to its quarterly report.

Older Americans ages, 35 to 49, spend on average 7 hours per week on social media. This is more than young adults, ages 18 and up, which spend on average 6 hours per week on social media, according to a 2016 Nielsen Social Media Report.

Older generations using Facebook are part of the reason why freshman Carter Perkins spends less time on the platform because he feels that he has to watch what he posts, he said.

Perkins uses Facebook to keep up with extended family, but because his older family members began using it, he has begun using different platforms to express himself, he said.

“My Facebook looks a lot different than Instagram and Snapchat,” Perkins said about how he presents himself on social media.

Goodman has used social media as a way to connect with friends and family, liking photos and sharing videos on the web since he was in sixth grade. As family members joined Facebook though it led to a change in Goodman’s posting patterns, he said.

“When I used Facebook in sixth grade, I remember as soon as my family members started adding me as a friend I started changing up how my posts are orientated,” Goodman said. “I would post a little bit less of what I would want my friends to see and more of what my family wanted to see.”

Snapchat now is used mainly to keep up with his friends, but when he used Facebook, Goodman would post pictures of family and friends. After his family members began to add him, he stopped posting inappropriate jokes and pictures that were common for someone his age, he said.

A majority of young adult users, 51 percent of ages 18 to 24, said that it would be difficult to give up social media. There is a broad range of reasons why people use social media, but only 3 percent of users say they trust information they find on social media platforms and few have confidence that social media platforms can keep their personal information safe, according to 2018 Social Media Use Survey by Pew Research Center.

Anytime Facebook comes up in a conversation, it’s usually in a negative light, senior Anthony Azzun said. Azzun occasionally uses it to schedule events, but he goes to other apps to post statuses or stories, he said.

When he studied abroad, Azzun used WhatsApp, an instant-messaging app that uses Wi-Fi instead of data to send text messages, voice and video calls to other users. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in 109 countries, not including America, according to a SimilarWeb survey.

WhatsApp was Azzun’s choice of messaging app while he studied abroad so that he could communicate with his host family and other students who he traveled with.

While WhatsApp is similar to Skype and Messenger, it succeeds because it doesn’t have a preconceived notion of what it’s to be used for, or in Facebook’s case, because of the negativity associated with it Azzun said.

“Even though the messenger app really does have the same purpose, people are less inclined to use it,” Azzun said.

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