Social networking may be the buzzword du jour on the Internets, but it seems that it only applies to a particular demographic: Two new reports show that Twittering and Facebooking are becoming unattractive to today's youth.
According to the U.K.'s government communications watchdog, Ofcom, kids are beginning to abandon Facebook, MySpace and their ilk in droves. While 30% of U.K. adults have a social net profile (up from 21% in 2007), the share of 15-24 year-olds has dropped from 55% in early 2008 to 50% this year. It's not a massive fall, but it's the first time the number has decreased. Over the same period, however, Ofcom's research showed a corresponding increase from 40% to 46% for the 35-34 year-old age group.
Basically as the oldies are moving in, the kids are moving out. And, frankly, that should be no surprise. It's pretty standard teenage behavior to prefer to occupy social niches that are different to those the old folks use—cue the image of the standard rebellious teenager donning the oh-so-unique black T-shirt of the noisiest band of the day. This is borne out by the remaining statistic from the research—kids under 16, presumably still in the early stages of rebellion, social networking is still as popular as ever.
And it's not just Facebook either. It's been suggested that Twitter's users tend to be older, and some new data from Nielsen proves this outright. Analyzing 250,000 Internet users in the U.S., Nielsen found that 25% of them were under 25. But only 16% of Twitter users were in that age group. And, while that's exclusively based on Twitter.com, which can be misleading given the proliferation of desktop Twitter clients, it looks like 90% of TweetDeck users are over 25.
All this firmly points to one thing: Social networking is mainly for the old. At least, for a given value of old, as defined by these two pieces of research.
It's not too surprising. Though the generational lines are blurry in a social net, where it's easy to have different layers of members co-existing without too much cross-over, the presence of parents or teachers on social sites could be directly responsible for the changing demographic. After all, it's still not a clear-cut decision to befriend one's parents on Facebook. And as far as Twitter goes, most of the younger people I know, with more free time on their hands than us employed types, spend hours nattering to each other via one of the dozens of IM clients. So they are social networking...just in a far more involved and real-time way than the rest of us.