According to data analysts, there are 3 million fewer teens on Facebook in 2014 than there were in 2011. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

Lauren Piraro

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Is Facebook outdated?

New social media platforms are emerging, ready to steal the spotlight. To question whether Facebook is relevant for college-aged students — it’s initial target audience — is not necessarily without justification.

According to data analysts, there are 3 million fewer teens on Facebook in 2014 than there were in 2011.

Many college students are completely distancing themselves from the website for a variety of reasons, one being they simply don’t find it useful anymore.

“Personally for me, I just didn’t see a need to use it anymore,” business administration junior Brandon Swearingen said. “I stopped having the motivation to get online and check it or post, and so I guess it just got old.”

Swearingen signed off of Facebook his sophomore year and never returned. He became fed up with how much time it consumed from his day and the lack of face-to-face interaction that resulted from his frequent usage.

“Not being on social media, you’re more active, you go out and do stuff,” he said. “When you’re in company and social gatherings, you’re not staring at your phone. You’re making eye contact with people.”

Admittedly, Swearingen said people are confused when he tells them he doesn’t have a Facebook, but says communicating by other means, such as text message and e-mail, meet all his needs. He likes to maintain his friendships while not getting too caught up in social media, he said.

The only social platform Swearingen participates actively in is Twitter. Swearingen didn’t actually make the Twitter account; instead, his friend set it up for him.

“I like how the profiles people make are sometimes fake and they’re really funny,” he said. “I like how they post pictures and memes that are really funny. I don’t really find that on Facebook.”

Weston Kilbride, a single-subject credential program graduate student, also ditched Facebook permanently a year ago and said it was a split decision.

“I actually deleted it one night when I was feeling frustrated because I was bored,” Kilbride admitted. “It’s mostly because of a social thing, like where you see everyone else’s activities and then you’re just kind of like, ‘Um, I’m not doing anything fun.’”

The mundane nature of viewing only the best parts of other people’s lives became a distraction for Kilbride.

“I was just like, I can cut it out and then I did,” she said. “I didn’t really think about it at all until months later when someone was like, ‘Oh, I posted a picture of you’ and I was like, woah, I don’t even have a Facebook anymore.”

Like Swearingen, Kilbride thinks being without a Facebook has allowed her friendships to grow and flourish without social media as part of the equation.

“Honestly, I think that not having a Facebook distinguishes the people that I care about and the people that I don’t care about that much,” she said. “And it makes your circle a lot smaller and you can focus your attention on the people that you really, truly care about and who care about you because it’s less superficial.”

Kilbride said she loves the personal nature of a text message and relies on that to connect with people. She also said using texting as her only means of communication can sometimes backfire.

“If someone’s throwing a party, they’re going to be inviting everyone on Facebook,” she said. “I’m not going to get that message and I’m left out. That’s just the way it is.”

The only social media platform Kilbride uses is Instagram. She loves the streamlined simplicity and emphasis on photography. Just like Swearingen, one of Kilbride’s friends set up the account.

Kilbride and Swearingen both said they are the only ones they know of who do not have a Facebook account.

“I think that I am one of the only people that I know who doesn’t have a Facebook, but it’s been fine,” Kilbride said. “I really thought that it was a big part of me. Then I got rid of it and I was like, oh wait, it’s not that big of a deal.”

As young adults are opting out of the Facebook norm, many older adults are jumping in. According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Update 2013, activity among seniors on the social media platform has increased in the past year — 45 percent of Internet users age 65 or older now use Facebook.

Joel Westwood, a lecturer in the English department who teaches a media and technologies course, said there is a definite demographic shift. He has noticed that an older crowd is embracing Facebook more and more.

“It’s a powerful medium for re-connecting, for opening up a box of the precious photographs we had kept in the closet,” Westwood said. “I know out of a show of 120 students, all but two students have Facebook accounts, but now, not all are regularly checking or going on.”

Facebook is now seen as “uncool,” Westwood said.

“I think that’s because Facebook is such a wonderful repository of photographs and narratives for people who have time to and really cherish the photographs of their kids or their grandkids,” he said. “That may be part of the backlash among students, it’s like I’m not using it because Grandma is and I don’t want to be my Grandma’s friend on Facebook.”

Westwood states that he noticed high school students in 2010 not necessarily deleting their accounts but moving away from actively using Facebook.

“I think because it’s reached this critical mass of sorts that if you don’t have a Facebook account, you’re making a statement,” Westwood said.

And though students may have a varied list of reasons as to why they want to live without a Facebook account, Westwood understands the magnitude of not participating in a social media platform that has become ingrained in college culture and society.

“I don’t think college students necessarily want to make that statement, but there are outliers — the Henry David Thoreau types,” he said. “Not having a Facebook is like going into the woods for two years.”

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