For years, the size and influence of Facebook increased at an amazing rate. But some recent studies They indicate that their rootedness among users – especially in the developed world – may be decreasing.
On a global scale, the number of Facebook users continues to increase steadily as more people connect in the developing world. In the US, two out of three adults use Facebook, but that figure has not changed in the last two years. In particular, the number of American teenagers who use Facebook is decreasing.
According to the Pew Research Center, an independent center, 71% of American teenagers who are online used Facebook in 2015. Now, barely half says he does. Among those who continue to do so, a growing part seems to try minimize the use of Facebook, although its use of other social networking platforms, such as Instagram, seems to increase.
As a researcher studying the digital division"I am concerned about how the use of the Internet varies from one group to another and if these differences have important consequences for society.
Why does this change matter?
Facebook raises a lot of concern: it's addictive, collects (and distributes) too much personal information and encourages envy and depression. It is understandable that some see with joy the prospect of Facebook taking its due. But as with any change in behavior, there will be someone who wins and who loses, and also some surprises.
The abandonment of Facebook by other social networks is important because each service allows or encourages its users to do different things.
Facebook offers a wide range of data types that can be shared, such as links, text, photos, videos and more, and fulfills a large number of functions. It is often used for simple interpersonal communication, but it is also useful for creating discussion groups, sharing news and organizing events.
Despite the controversy over the role of Facebook in the spreading false news, the platform plays an important role when it comes to young people being informed of the news. There is tests that indicate that those who use social networks to inform themselves are more likely to be politically active.
On the contrary, Instagram and Snapchat mainly focus on sharing images. On these platforms it is not easy to share text or links or encourage debate. Although news and current events are included in their services, they do not play an important role.
The rich abandon Facebook
It seems that the use of Facebook by teenagers decreases faster among wealthy teenagers in the US, and is being replaced by other social networking services such as Snapchat and Instagram. Although we do not really know the reason, the change in class-based communication patterns raises questions about its more general social consequences.
If we take into account all the possible positive aspects of the use of Facebook compared with other social network tools, it has a broader range of tools and expression functions.
Keeps acquaintances in contact with each other, helps create networks of informal contacts and allows the organization of political and social groups. As wealthy teenagers leave Facebook, they will no longer have those tools.
71% of American teens on the Internet used Facebook in 2015. Now, only half say they do
On the other hand, if those rich teenagers are those who will exercise power and influence the future, and leave Facebook, it may be another way of fragmenting society because those with more money are going to look for more exclusive ways to make contacts .
Facebook's algorithms tend to show users primarily the lives and interests of those closest to them, but it also allows them to receive information from time to time about the lives of other, more distant friends. The rich may lose a way of knowing something about the lives of the less fortunate.
The video is the new text
It is also worth analyzing the more general social and educational consequences of not sharing text and sharing images and videos.
When the Internet was adopted for the first time in a generalized manner, e-mails and online discussion forums were based largely on text and fostered everyday knowledge. However, the amount of text that is used in communication on the Internet has decreased little by little.
For example, a normal tweet has some 50 characters long, and although Facebook offers different ways to interact, hanging a video increases the chances of others seeing it, which encourages abandonment of the text. And, except for hashtags optional, it is possible that the images published on Instagram and on Snapchat are not accompanied by any text.
Naturally, the production of images and videos requires their own "knowledge", and video can be an effective means of communication for political and social change. However, it is possible that this abandonment of the text has an unexpected side effect, such as the loss of influence of poor users of social networks.
Early researchers thought that text-based communication over the Internet would allow those with a lower social status to participate in discussions and debates in the Internet. greater equality of conditions, because the readers could not judge the participants by their gender, their race or their social class. Now, of course, social media profiles give readers clues about race and gender or other social clues, which reduces this effect, but text-based messages can still overcome social barriers more effectively than video .
It is also important to consider how easy it is to generate messages designed to have a social impact using different media. It is easy to create a basic video message with a smartphone, but may require more learning (and more expensive devices) if you want to use editing techniques, lighting, sound design and other persuasive techniques. It is much more difficult to hide the indicators of social status such as gender, race and class in the video than in the text, which makes it easier for those who discriminate (both consciously and unconsciously) to ignore or downplay to video messages.
Video techniques and tools may be available to everyone, but this carries the risk of creating a social media environment centered on video in which people mainly share videos and photos for rough interpersonal conversations. and superficial. This can cause commercial forces and the more affluent to dominate the public sphere of video on the Internet. Educators can help young people understand social networks and learn to use them better (and more safely).
Experts, educators and legislators have a hard time keeping up with the changing behavior of people on the Internet. As social networks have become one of the most important ways for people to communicate with each other and with the world, we need to talk more in detail about the possible changes in the way we understand each other and the balance of power between social groups.
Instead of debating whether social networks (or social media companies) are good or bad, one of the fundamental questions we should ask ourselves is how different groups use social networks differently and how those differences affect society. There are many things we have to learn.
David R. Brake He is a researcher and educator at the University of Alberta.
Translation of NewsClips.