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Why Facebook does not Reign Supreme Among Young Adults? Cool Infographics may be Misleading.

The published scoop by Mashable which claimed that “Facebook Still Reign Supreme Among Young Adults” caught my eye. The article is based on a poll conducted by Harvard Institute of Politics on 3058 young adults (age 18-29) in the US.

Source: Mashable and Harvard Institute of Politics

Source: Mashable and Harvard Institute of Politics

According the Mashable article Facebook and Google+ are still the main platforms used by young adults. This comes after a year with many articles about how teenagers are fleeing Facebook. This statistics came as a surprise for me, as it contradicts what I know from talking to my students at UW, who show a strong preference for platforms like Whatsapp, Instagram, Reddit and Twitter.

Of course, talking to my students is not a random sample, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a recipe for generalization purposes. However, it raised my curiosity.

If you look carefully at the poll, you will notice that this beautiful infographic may be misleading (visualization, in general, is a great tool to make a point, not necessary the right one). Many young adults have accounts on Facebook and Google +. Why? They opened an account because their friends were there, or because it was a great way to communicate with others. But having an account doesn’t mean that they are really active. In other words, we are confusing ‘subscriptions’ with ‘real activity’. This infographic doesn’t show us what are the usage patterns of young adults; It doesn’t show how many inactive accounts Facebook has; it doesn’t shoe how many people use Google+ just because they want to use hangout, which Google+ has combined together.

In the question “What is the one website, social network, or app that you could not live without?” we find that only 13% in High School say they could not live without Facebook (same rate like Twitter). In 4th year of college 22% say they could not live without Facebook. This is very different from the 84% reach that we see in the above infographic.

A small insight: Cool Infographics may be misleading.

 

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