By Jen Michalski
Ten years ago a 20-year-old Mark Zuckerberg had just launched his new networking site, thefacebook, for his Harvard classmates. By the end of 2004, it had 1 million users, an office in Palo Alto and Zuckerberg was on his way to becoming a Millennial icon for starry-eyed wannabe entrepreneurs.
Over the years, Facebook got a facelift.
Check out Facebook’s decade-long physical transformation:
Now, Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world with 1.23 billion users.
We asked a group of 20 Millennials to take Time magazine’s quiz, “How Much Time Have You Wasted On Facebook?" which calculates the estimated amount of time a person has spent on Facebook since first registering for an account. The Millennials we talked to reported spending around 3 to 4 days a year on Facebook (but some, as many as 17!).
Do those numbers surprise you? Sure the social media landscape is rapidly changing, with platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (take a look at our Snapchat post here) pulling our attention in many different directions, but Facebook continues to be a unique draw for young people.
Facebook Then & Now
We talked to some Millennials about what they originally used Facebook for (circa years 2007-2010), and what they’re using the site for now. Here’s what they had to say:
From habitual status updates —> the now-and-then life announcement.
The status update is one of the primary Facebook functions that has seen the most change in use for Millennials – partly thanks to Twitter’s draw. Wil, 20, says he used to post multiple Facebook statuses a day – about anything from his social plans to classes — but now he rarely posts statuses, taking his thoughts to Twitter instead.
So if Millennials aren’t posting as many statuses, what exactly are they saying when they do post? It’s become less about the day-to-day and more about announcements — the “big news,” from engagements and pregnancies, to new jobs and new homes.
From back-and-forth wall conversations —> real time, emoticon-filled chats
In the earlier years, when Millennials were first getting hooked on Facebook, the site was used as a means of frequent, ongoing communication between friends, with conversations bouncing back and forth between friends’ walls. The eventual introduction of Chat streamlined communication by saving past conversations and allowing for real time talking, without the informal wall-to-wall chatter. Ryan, who has had Facebook since 2005, said he and a friend even orchestrated a trip together solely through messages.
From “last night was great” albums —> me-in-the-moment mobile uploads
Gone are the 50 photo albums documenting spring break trips… now Millennials tend to upload single, “spontaneous” photos. Madeline, 23, says that when she’s using Facebook for photos, “… it’s usually to do a quick mobile upload of a picture I took on my iPhone or something, whereas in high school or college I would have posted whole albums of photos from vacations or other events.”
From sharing daily life updates —> sharing articles, listicles, and opinions
As Millennials are reevaluating Facebook’s place in their online lives, they’re maintaining a more calculated profile, opting to share less about themselves and more about the world around them. They’re frequently posting news, silly articles, BuzzFeed listicles, and viral quizzes – often including their individual opinions and reactions along with the link. Lauren, 24, says “I get a lot of pop culture news here… it’s usually the first place I check before the actual news so when something big happens, FB is where I hear and see it first.”
From 700 person-conversations —> curated groups
Remember the days when communicating with a large group on Facebook meant sending one message to everyone … only to get a million messages in return? Millennials are still using Facebook to communicate with a lot of people at once, but instead of message threads, they’re using groups to keep everyone and everything together. From the group for Algebra class, to the group for spring break trip plans, to the college acceptance groups, Millennials are seeking more curated groups for their communication needs. Ally, a high school senior, says she doesn’t use Facebook as often as she used to but “in the past 2 months I’ve used it more than I ever have for college acceptance groups and prom dress groups.”
What’s Stayed the Same
- Creeping: Facebook still serves an important purpose for this generation of Internet sleuthing. Brooklyn Tech High School seniors James, 18, and Caren, 17, mention using Facebook as a means of investigating their teachers, while Lauren, a 24-year-old living in Chicago, says she used Facebook to find out more information about a cute guy she had met … and eventually started dating.
- Keep in Touch: For those in less proximity – old classmates, relatives abroad, etc. Millennials keep in touch with friends in foreign countries via messages and photos: “It lets me touch base with people I’m not super close with but want to stay connected with, and it makes distance/time apart feel much smaller because when you see that person again, you’ve shared a few jokes recently enough that it feels like you just saw them,” says Lydia, 24.
Facebook in 2014
Millennials are finding more and more creative ways to use Facebook. Earlier this year, Facebook users colored their profiles purple in support of the American Cancer Society.
Our millennial panel pointed out a fad that recently swept through Facebook — an Art Occupy movement with this premise: “The idea is to occupy Facebook with ART, breaking the monotony of photos of lunch, selfies and sports. I will assign the name of an artist to whomever likes this post. You have to publish a piece by that artist along with this text.”
The Future of Facebook
Well, what about the next 10 years? Our Millennials think Facebook will continue to be relevant, but imagine that its popularity will fluctuate, as newer, prettier social media sites are unveiled. Nonetheless, it’s still the only spot where they can easily keep tabs on everyone they’ve ever met- some say it is like a personal version of LinkedIN, with major life updates and milestones noted.
So Millennial: now that your Facebook use doesn’t include multiple daily status updates, or funny selfies, maybe that friend request from your Great Aunt Susan isn’t such a bad thing after all.