Are you a young person who feels your Facebook feed has become quieter or boring with serious issues missing and pictures dominating? Well, you are not alone — and, in fact, it may get worse.
The reason could be that older people are joining the site en masse, pushing youngsters out. And now, according to some researchers in the West, a number of the younger users are retaining their accounts but are not posting anything of interest.
Others in their teens and 20s are choosing to abandon the social site in droves to avoid the wrath of their new Facebook friends — parents, uncles, aunties and in-laws.
That means all the pictures from that night out where beer flowed freely and everyone let their hair down — which a few years ago would have been posted on Facebook — now have different destinations: Twitter and Instagram.
Currently, the average age of Facebook users stands at 41 years. Indeed, Edythe Kirchmaier, Facebook’s oldest registered user, turned 106 last Wednesday.
Mrs Kirchmaier, who has more than 47,000 friends and a fun page with more than 12,000 likes, couldn’t enter her birth year of 1908 when she first joined the site. There is even worse news for diehard fans of Facebook. American researchers on Friday described the social site to be like an infectious disease, which is experiencing a spike before its decline.
The researchers predicted that the social network will lose 80 per cent of users by 2017.
Two doctoral candidates in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton University made their astonishing claims in a paper published online at a scientific research archive, but which is not yet peer-reviewed.
But a Facebook spokesperson told Time magazine the report is “utter nonsense”.
Based on the rise and fall of MySpace, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler say that Facebook, the largest online social network in history, is set for a massive fall.
“Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models,” they wrote.
They applied a modified epidemiological model to describe the dynamics of user activity of online social networks, using Google data that is publicly available.
It will make uncomfortable reading for the social media giant co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg, which has more than 1.1 billion users around the globe and turns 10 years old next month.
Their study said Facebook, whose shares climbed to a new high of $58.51 (Sh4,973.35) this week, has been in decline in terms of data usage since 2012.
“Facebook is expected to undergo a rapid decline in the upcoming years, shrinking to 20 per cent of its maximum size by December 2014,” said the report posted online to peers at ArXiv.org.
“Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017.” The new research comes amid surveys suggesting that younger users started migrating from Facebook in 2013.
Cannarella and Spechler told AFP they did not wish to comment publicly in person until their manuscript had completed its peer review process ahead of formal publication.
Last week, a writer for the Atlantic overheard President Barack Obama remarking during a chat with some unidentified youth at a café that teens are becoming disinterested in Facebook. The President was overheard saying, “It seems like they don’t use Facebook any more.”
In December, anthropologist Daniel Miller’s social media study in Europe discovered that Facebook is “basically dead” for teenagers between 16 and 18 years old.
The study established that young Facebook exiles are using Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp. Mr Miller said most teenagers only use Facebook to stay connected with parents and relatives and “many are embarrassed to even be associated with it,” said Miller.
But at least for now, Facebook’s fortunes are in good health. Rising share prices have made chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg the latest tech billionaire and Zuckerberg, 29, has a personal fortune estimated at about Sh1.6 trillion.
But some analysts have refuted the latest study.
Time magazine argued that if we allow for a moment the idea that search interest is a viable measure of a social network’s popularity, then yes, interest in Facebook is, admittedly, showing a very slight dip. Mr Alexander Howard, a fellow at the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at the Columbia Journalism School, told Time that “applying models from the biological world to social networks and the broader online world isn’t an unreasonable approach to studying the dynamics of what’s happening there and why.”
The Time report further suggested that you are unlikely to leave Facebook because all of your friends and family are on Facebook now.
“There’s little reward for being the first of your friends to go somewhere else, as there’s no guarantee anybody will follow you there,” argues the report.
“MySpace never achieved this critical mass (your grandma never had a profile there — probably) so when Facebook started surging, there was no penalty for MySpace users to switch over.”
With no credible research on the trends in Kenya, will the scenarios suggested by reporters in the West be mirrored locally.