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Social networking: It’s just, like, so not cool anymore

Annie Wakefield
Digital Marketing Manager
6 August 2009

A recent report by a regulator for the UK communications industries, Ofcom, shows a 5% drop in 15 to 24-year-olds using social networking sites and it’s not only their parents, uncles, aunts and teachers joining up which is scaring them off: it’s the number of 25- to 34-year-olds whose presence is driving their younger peers away.

According to the regulator, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds who have a profile on a social networking site has dropped for the first time – from 55% at the start of 2008 to 50% this year, while the number of 25- to 34-year-olds who are now regularly logging on to sites like Facebook has gone up by 6% – after peaking at 40% last year.

It’s not surprising that the teens are backing off – 30% (up from 21%) of British adults now have a social networking profile, meaning that Facebook is no longer a safe place to air your views – and antics – to your friends and peers. MySpace suddenly doesn’t seem to be ‘my space’ after all.

It’s not all bad though:

James Thickett, director of market research at Ofcom, pointed out that while older people seemed to be embracing social networking sites, Facebook and MySpace remained immensely popular with children under 16 and there is nothing to suggest overall usage of the internet among 15-to 24-year-olds is going down – the data just suggests they are spending less time on social networking sites.

“Clearly take-up among under 16-year-olds is very high … so we cannot say for certain whether this is people in a certain age group who are not setting up social networking profiles or whether it’s a population shift which is reflecting people getting older and having a social networking profile that they set up two years ago,” he said. “The main point is the profile of social networking users is getting older.”
Oh, so now it may not be the old fogies driving the teens off the networks then?

The recent announcement, along with facts and figures to illustrate the news, that more and more youngsters are abandoning the social media ship as fast as their parents are joining up really struck a chord with me: I recently added an aged uncle to my Facebook friends and then felt a little…. spied upon. I now tread more carefully on my status bar, and scrutinise my pictures in detail before loading them to the site.

I won’t delete my profile just yet – the benefits of staying in touch with far flung friends far outweigh the cons of having an older relative or two in my friends list – but the day my parents sign up to Facebook is the day I sign out – for good.

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