I’m not a social scientist, whatever that is (heard someone describe themselves as that this week, but they couldn’t really explain it). But I know things, I hear things, and I ask about things, a lot – with the students that I teach. And having been in four different secondary schools this past week in Lakefield, Scarborough, Kitchener and Oakville, I thought I would ask all 5,100 of them; “Who still has an active Facebook account?” Most all of them do. “Who has checked into their Facebook account within the past week.” Almost everyone. “Who uses Facebook less than they used to.” About half, with most still using it regularly. But here’s the rub; students/teens are using Facebook with a more defined and specific purpose – like a utility. They login, scan their News Feed, add content when they have something to say or to apprise their friends of, contribute to their friend’s conversations and content – and move along to their other social sites, apps and activities.
Not coincidentally, this is how Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, described the site – as a utility – where people use it to get what they need, leave, then return again when they need something. And, according to my myriad student interviews, what is that “something?” Simply put, it’s social evolution, as Facebook represents to them a deeper and more robust social core, or social home-away-from-home. A place to check into, catch up, and stay in the loop. While their preferred day-to-day social experiences are on Instagram, SnapChat, Vine and Twitter, these communities are often singular in their social offering while Facebook, as old as it is, still offers what the others do, but within one environment.
So, are students really leaving Facebook? My experience in a different school and community every day is, not really. Are they engaging with it less? For sure. But their use of Facebook is becoming more functional, purposeful and self-directed.