OP2

Facebook faceplants on youth exodus

Peter Garnry
Head of Equity Strategy

Summary:  The young abandon Facebook's platforms in protest against their mining of personal information for profit; the attempt by Facebook parent Meta to reel them back in with the Metaverse stumbles.

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Back in 2012, 94 percent of teens had a Facebook account, while surveys suggest that today only 27 percent of adolescents have an account. Facebook has gone from being a vibrant hub of young people, to a platform for older “boomers” as young people would say. Young people are increasingly turned off by Facebook’s algorithms turning their social media experiences into that of homogenous feedback loops of identical content, or even worse, hateful and disinforming content. Facebook’s own research suggests that teens spend 2 to 3 times longer on TikTok than on Instagram (which is Facebook’s youngest social media asset), and that Snapchat is the preferred way to communicate with friends.  

In many ways, Facebook is suddenly in the midst of a cultural war between young people under 40 and adults over 40, with young people seeing Facebook representing the evil boomer generation of fake news and greedy corporations. Facebook was like the only meaningful cigarette brand and suddenly many new brands are joining the marketplace. These newcomers have a cooler style and a different take on data privacy and how information is controlled, without being minted in algorithms that serve highly individualised advertisement messages. 

A new company name (Facebook is now called Meta) and brand identity to separate and shield Instagram (its most valuable current asset), together with creating a new product tailored towards young people, is the exact same playbook tobacco companies have used for years. But in 2022, investors will realise that Meta is rapidly losing the young generation and thus the future potential and profitability of the company. In a desperate move, Meta tries to acquire Snapchat or TikTok while throwing billions of dollars into building the creepy Metaverse, which is aimed at surveilling users more directly than ever before and getting young people back into Meta’s universe of social media platforms, in the perceived wisdom that being a first mover is always best in technology. The plan struggles to take off as the young generation fails to sign up. 

Market impact: Facebook parent company Meta struggles, down 30 percent versus the broader market and is urged to spin off its components as separate entities, shattering Zuckerberg’s monopolistic dreams

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