Teens hate Facebook but can’t leave

According to a new Pew report, teenagers hate Facebook — and yet, they’re not leaving. In fact, usage among teens is on the rise. So why the hate? It’s not about intrusive ads that piss off the older set (myself included) — apparently, it’s their “Friends.”

Teens complain about the ‘drama’ and the competitiveness. One 14-year-old goes into detail about the unrelenting popularity contest driven by Facebook ‘Likes.’

The most important and stress-inducing statistic of all is the number of “likes” she gets when she posts a new Facebook profile picture — followed closely by how many “likes” her friends’ photos receive. Casey’s most recent profile photo received 117 “likes” and 56 comments from her friends, 19 of which they posted within a minute of Casey switching her photo, and all of which Casey “liked” personally.

“If you don’t get 100 ‘likes,’ you make other people share it so you get 100,” she explains. “Or else you just get upset. Everyone wants to get the most ‘likes.’ It’s like a popularity contest.”

Is there anything more “teen” than the desire to be liked? When I think back on high school, popularity was more ephemeral. It ebbed and flowed. While you probably knew who had it and who didn’t, you could never fully pin it down. Today, the number of Likes you receive on a comment, photo or video provide teenagers with real-time feedback and hard data on their social value. If you don’t get enough Likes, you are not liked. Simple as that.

And when teens try to disengage, they become socially invisible. “(One girl) wasn’t in the group chat, so we stopped being friends with her,” Casey says. “Not because we didn’t like her, but we just weren’t in contact with her.”

On the plus side, teens agree that Tumblr is different. “I like Tumblr because I don’t have to present a specific or false image of myself and I don’t have to interact with people I don’t necessarily want to talk to,” one 15-year-old girl said.

Which could position Yahoo nicely after its purchase of the network if and when the mass exodus begins. What about Google+ and the new MySpace? Neither seem to be on the map for most of today’s teens, though based upon their fickle nature that could change, y’know, the moment the popular kids start using it.

 

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