Story by Kazi Mehedi Hasan
Ole Miss graduate student
More Americans create Facebook pages every day, but according to one social media expert at the University of Mississippi, some existing users are walking away from the platform.
Brad Conaway, a visiting professor in the School of Journalism and New Media, said young people, in particular, are leaving Facebook.
“Even if membership continues to grow, you have a large number of people who used to use the app that [are] no longer using it and may still be members,” he said. “You’ll see this with students a lot who will have a Facebook page but do not use it very often. Maybe only use it to talk or to put up pictures for their parents. They don’t use it personally on a day-to-day basis.”
Conaway said that contrasts with five years ago when students might have used Facebook every day.
According to Google Trends data in the U.S., for the past five years searches for Facebook have decreased fairly sharply, along with more modest decreases for YouTube and Twitter. By contrast, searches for Instagram have increased and WhatsApp searches have remained relatively stable but minimal in comparison to the other four.
Mohammad Oyan, a Ph.D. student in civil engineering at the University of Mississippi said he stopped using Facebook 18 months ago.
“Facebook was like an addiction to me. I realized that scrolling on Facebook was a waste of time,” he said.
In fact, he said that other than Facebook Messenger, he’s not using social media at all.
Conaway said that two recent incidents have pushed many users like Oyan to distrust and give up their social accounts.
“Things like Cambridge Analytica and the 2016 presidential election, those two shifts meant that more people are aware of the nefarious things that…were happening from social media companies. So, now there is a certain percentage of people who are still using it, who are doing it while holding their nose,” he said.
Instagram Up, Unlike Others
Conaway said that social media is evolving, not disappearing from the lives of Americans.
“The past couple of years have left a bad taste in people’s mouths, they don’t like what they’ve seen from social media companies over the last two years. So they’re going to wait until social media gets it right or until there’s something new,” Conaway added.
According to the Pew Research center, 69% of U.S. adults are connected with Facebook and 73% with YouTube. The number of adult Twitter users had been increasing over the past but Twitter saw a decline in users between 2018-2019. By contrast, the percentage of U.S. adults using Instagram has increased every year since 2012.
Conaway said he thinks Twitter will rebound and that Instagram use will expand.
“Instagram should eventually start growing where you see increases in usage and membership. Both of those should grow on Instagram according to just trends.”