My girlfriend works in the Newark public school system—a gig that makes my freelance toil look even less impressive than it really is. Speaking to a student a few weeks ago, a question popped into her head: "Do you still use Facebook?"
"Oh no," said the student. "Facebook is for old people."
If there had been Bloomberg microphone there, Facebook's stock would have tumbled to zero. Students in my girlfriend's school are turned off by Facebook's monolithic structure, and have turned to sites that offer broken-down versions of Facebook's tools: Instagram for pictures, Twitter for words, Pinterist for whatever Pinterist is for. When teenagers do use Facebook, it's apparently only to slutshame. According to that excellent NPR report, Facebook declines to remove naked pictures of teenage girls. Breastfeeding, of course, remains taboo.
Once it becomes widely understood that Facebook has stopped being cool—a realization that I think must be less than six months away—the company will go into a seizure. I look forward to watching it. After spending years making the site into a one-stop-shop, will they attempt to reverse course, exploding themselves like Ma Bell in an attempt to recapture the glimmer of youth? How long before we get Facebook EDGE, a teens-only safe space where kids can post as much sexually explicit gibberish as they like?
I truly hope that the Zuckerberg Empire makes a sad grab for relevance. Since their original concept caught on, the people at Facebook have done an abysmal job giving its customers what they want. Their privacy violations come like clockwork, and each new feature seems to alienate users more than the one before. Facebook's continued success has come from its ubiquity. Take that away, and the giant will falter. As soon as insecure users get wind that the kids have fled to Snapchat, the adults will follow suit, and Facebook will be left a ghost town, a dead mall.
Will Facebook do what we all have so much trouble doing, and accept that it will never be young again? Or will it hypercorrect, and become the aging hipster that kids of all ages love to mock?