2013 witnessed a dynamic shift in social media usage within younger generations, whereby these users moved away from more open platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, towards closed or private networks and applications.
As older generations, particularly parents, become more familiar with social networks and, as a result, more common users, we’re observing a revolt amongst younger users. In fact, last year Facebook reported a daily decrease in users, particularly amongst teenagers.
So, why is this happening and what does it mean?
It’s like your Mum showing up at your favourite club after you’ve maybe had one too many and trying to dance with you and your friends, whilst commenting on your attire or behaviour. Teenagers are increasingly opting for closed or private social media and apps, such as Whatsapp, Snapchat and Everyme in place of the traditionally popular Facebook and Twitter in a bid for more discreet social interaction.
Many of the reasons for previously engaging on open platforms, such as growing your digital social network and sharing media and updates, are now counting against these mediums. These social spaces are too public and traceable, meaning everyone from your parents to your boss can potentially view what you’ve been up to and join the conversation.
Additionally, having grown up with technology and social media teens are more aware of the constant battle for their attention from advertisers online and display growing concern around the security of personal information.
Private social media and messaging allows users to create a considerably more tailored and personal digital and social experience, which focuses on ‘real’ friends rather than vapid connections and offers greater control.
Since its launch in 2009 Whatsapp has grown into the UK’s most popular messaging application and now has more than 350 million active global users (beating social giant Twitter). Part of its success lies in its ability to host private conversations with individuals or groups of friends, where you can share messages, photos and videos out of the public eye.
While in some environments privacy has always been paramount, i.e. work, with secure platforms like Yammer used to communicate internally in many offices, other social situations are beginning to adapt a similar approach. Take Couple for example, a social network app exclusively for couples, or SquareHub, a private social network for families to connect digitally.
It seems that in more and more areas of our lives we are searching to create more real, deep, private and meaningful connections online. While it’s likely even youngsters will maintain their Facebook accounts going forward, it seems this will be more for show than for practicality or as a real communications tool.
Younger generations are seeking freedom within social environments and private social media offer this along with the greater control provided by distilled networks. The most successful social channels for the new generation will be those that can create a more valid and personal social experience, in which users feel secure and can easily tailor and refine who they communicate with at any one time.