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It's Official: Facebook Is Becoming the Platform for You

Older adults are fueling the site's new growth

Mature woman using a tablet

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New data finds that most of Facebook's recent growth has come from new users older than 55.

It’s no secret that Facebook’s U.S. user base is aging up. But new data from digital marketing researcher eMarketer makes clear that while Facebook remains the most popular social media site by a wide margin — more than 2.2 billion users worldwide — the site is seeing a decline in activity from its youngest users. Growth continues, but it is coming from users age 55 and older.

According to eMarketer, Facebook — a concept that took root in Mark Zuckerberg's college dorm room — will lose two million users under the age of 24 in 2018.  It's not all bad news for Facebook, however. The marketing researcher says the American audience is expected to grow to 169.5 million users — up 1 percent from 2017, thanks to those in older age groups.

Facebook is also seeing a similar trend in the United Kingdom. An estimated 700,000 fewer 12- to 24-year-olds will regularly use the platform in Britain this year. But 500,000 new users age 55-plus are expected to join, which will make that demographic the second most prominent user base in the U.K.

Much of the changing trends of Facebook’s user base may be due to the site’s changing priorities in their algorithm, which tends to favor its older users, who mostly use the site to keep up with the lives of friends and family. In January, Facebook founder and CEO Zuckerberg announced that the company would begin favoring more posts from family and friends in the News Feed, and fewer from brands and companies that Facebook deems “impersonal.”

So, where are the kids going? Mostly to Instagram — which Facebook owns — and rival Snapchat, which are increasing their user bases by 13.1 percent and 9.3 percent, respectively, says eMarketer. Both platforms have undergone updates to increase of use — potentially making them more popular for older adults. But, eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson says in the report, “The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.”

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