CommonSense Blog

Millennials Unplugged – Complexities of the Relationship Between Millennials and Facebook

By Bob Pearson | May 03, 2015

Facebook is like family to today’s millennials.  It is relevant in our lives, it’s sometimes annoying, it doesn’t always do what we want, but we know it will be with us for the long haul and we want it to be there.  For those of us who are parents, it sure sounds like us.

Millennials will always try what is new/hot and they know that Facebook will still be there at the end of the day ready to be of help.  Here is what our latest Millennial discussions led us to realize.

#1 – We shape our behaviors in middle school and high school – the majority of millennials make the choice to get on Facebook in middle school or high school.  When we think about it, we make a lot of choices that stick with us forever at this point in time.  Our favorite music, the languages we speak, our set of friends, how we consume content, what we eat and much more.  Social channels are part of this mix.  In this case, Facebook is “who we are”.  It’s grown up with us, so even if we criticize it now and then (like our parents), it’s going to be hard to let go of it.

#2 – We use Facebook to track friends, families and groups – millennials use the channel to track what their important groups are doing.  This means that Facebook is more a place to see a group notification or check out your family members who are not on SnapChat or to see if anything is interesting in your friend group (personal news feed).  This only takes 1-3 hours a day tops, so usage is less.  What’s important is that it is the only place where all of our people are available to track.

#3 – Millennials text or Snapchat more than FB Messenger – it’s more difficult to use Messenger since you need to go all the way onto an app, rather than just use your phone…and then you have to go all the way to Messenger, rather than just text…..and then you can’t turn off the read receipts on Messenger.  That’s the equivalent of boomers having to get into the family station wagon and drive to their friend’s house to see if they are home, rather than just using the phone to call them.  It may not seem like a burden to boomers to use Messenger vs. text or Snapchat, but to millennials, this is an unnecessary mountain to climb.  So they don’t.

#4 – Facebook is less relevant in the “now”, more relevant as “historian” – let’s say you go to a concert tonight.  A boomer will share a photo and a post.  A millennial will share updates from Snapchat during the concert and later in the evening after the show is over, they’ll place a collection of photos on Facebook.  Boomers see Facebook as relevant now.  Millennials see Facebook as their historian.

#5 – Controlled and/or private networks are the trend – you can control who gets your texts.  You have significant control on who receives your Snapchats.  On Facebook, the trend appears to be moving towards more privacy their as well.  The millennial perspective appears to be “if my other channels are essentially private or focused on who I know, why can’t Facebook be the same”?  So a major shift is occurring towards private and controlled networks.  Habits formed in new channels shape our overall habits.  Overall, this is good to prevent “creepin”, but bad for advertisers who prefer data being more public.

#6 – Friends define who friends are more than the individual – back in the “old days”, boomers had this antiquated idea that they would be friends with people they really knew, but not much more than that.  In today’s Facebook world, many millennials have between 500-2000 friends.  This happens because “who you are friends with” becomes the open door to becoming a friend.  This reliance on “mutual friends” as a qualifier is leading to much larger friend groups.  Mutual friends can be classmates, teams, companies and other groups.  The good news, from the boomer’s perspective, is that millennials do seem to want to know their friends…..they don’t just let anyone in and they rarely meet someone for the first time via Facebook.

#7 – Decorum sets in after high school – yes, Facebook trash talking occurs in middle school and then starts slowing down in high school.  That makes sense.

#8 – Millennials want Facebook to succeed – Millennials want Facebook to enable products to be bought directly similar to Amazon.com; they want to live stream movies from their account like Netflix; they want to “do it all” in one place, e.g. Snapchat, videos, messaging and more; they want to find a job within Facebook ala LinkedIn; and they want to be able to create media to tell their own story from within Facebook, like we can via PC software.  Basically, the message to Facebook is “bring it on”.

All the best, Brittany Pearson (millennial) and Bob Pearson (boomer)