Oldies kick the young off Face­book? We’ve got to hang out some­where

There are many other and bet­ter rea­sons to dis­like the so­cial me­dia plat­form

The Observer - - Comment & Analysis - Barbara Ellen

An­other day, an­other re­port about how young peo­ple are turn­ing away from Face­book. The re­port, by an­a­lysts at Kan­tar Me­dia for the Reuters In­sti­tute for the Study of Jour­nal­ism at Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity, says that, fol­low­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions such as those in this news­pa­per, young peo­ple feel Face­book is pol­luted with “fake news”, dodgy al­go­rithms and assaults on democ­racy, lead­ing them to pre­fer the likes of What­sApp (also owned by Face­book).

All valid points – many older peo­ple dis­trust Face­book for the same rea­sons. Then there’s the other big rea­son why younger peo­ple are re­ject­ing Face­book, namely, older peo­ple. Asked about the site, young peo­ple used terms such as “un­cool un­cle”, “midlife cri­sis”, “ego­cen­tric” and “so­ciopath”. Nor do they mean cen­tral-cast­ing Old Peo­ple, click­ing con­fus­edly, suck­ing Nut­tall’s Min­toes. They mean me and prob­a­bly you too.

In­deed, for yoof, the mere pres­ence of old peo­ple seems to be enough to turn Face­book into a so­cial me­dia waste­land. First, per­haps young peo­ple could con­sider be­ing more gen­er­ous and re­alise that we re­quire some­where to stick up our youth­ful “pret­tier” snaps in a haze of pa­thetic nos­tal­gic need­i­ness. Some of us also need to put up re­cent photos and hear out­right lies about how we “haven’t changed!” It’s piti­ful, but harm­less. As are the oc­ca­sional rant­ing posts: Trump, Brexit, Cor­byn, goth jokes, gen­eral undig­ni­fied, mid­dle-aged time-wast­ing, usu­ally cul­mi­nat­ing in an en­gulf­ing nu­clear mush­room cloud of self-dis­gust and the clas­sic “I’m leav­ing Face­book (feel free to talk me out of it)” post.

So a part of me un­der­stands the youth­ful scorn. How­ever, an­other part of me won­ders, why is this par­tic­u­lar brand of so­cial me­dia-themed ageism ac­cept­able? More­over, for many Face­book users, isn’t it the very op­po­site of “so­cio­pathic” – sig­ni­fy­ing a very hu­man de­sire to join in?

Then there’s the other ques­tion – how are young peo­ple even aware of older peo­ple be­ing an­noy­ing? While I don’t know any­thing about the likes of Twit­ter, In­sta­gram or What­sApp, one fea­ture of Face­book is that, gen­er­ally, you’re not in­ter­act­ing with each other un­less you want to.

And while this has its own hazards, not least in terms of echo cham­bers, it also means that, even if I wanted to, I’d find it quite dif­fi­cult to stink up Face­book for young peo­ple, with tragic old photos of young-me with crimped hair. Ba­si­cally, I don’t see un­known “Young Peo­ple!” on Face­book; I’m pretty sure they don’t see me ei­ther and I pre­sume that’s the case for most users. So where’s all the de­ri­sion/aver­sion com­ing from?

If the se­ri­ous is­sues with Face­book have driven youth away, then that’s un­der­stand­able. If it’s sim­ple brand fa­tigue re­gard­ing the age­ing Face­book con­cept, then fair enough. How­ever, per­haps the next time some­one asks a young per­son why they’re off Face­book, per­haps they could re­frain from trash­ing the “old peo­ple” they prob­a­bly never ac­tu­ally see. I mean, yoof, talk about be­ing un­cool.

Getty

Who are you call­ing old?

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